Quick question: how many times in your life have you seen a bottle of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena or heard something about it? And how many times have you heard of the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia? Probably not so many, right?
Well, when we first heard about the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia, we had a similar reaction. We knew a lot about its famous cousin, not so much about the product from Reggio Emilia.
We thought to put together 10 commandments to share everything we we learned and that you must know about this rare, exquisite, one of kind product.
1. There are only 20 producers, allowed by the Consortium of for the Protection of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Reggio Emilia to make this product.
2. The rules to be awarded one of the three prestigious badges (Orange, Silver, Gold) are very strict. The jury is made of 5 connoisseurs, awarding points for the three labels based on the characteristics of each one: acidity, density, colour, flavour.
3. The points awarded to the different products also define the quality of the product itself. For example, the Orange label is usually less than 270 points. Of course, a great quality Orange label will be as close to 270 as possible, it can also be more than 270. For the Silver, between 270 and 300. For the Gold, above 300. The producer can decide to not sell a Gold medal with only a 300 mark and downgrade it to a top quality Silver instead. The same can be said for a Silver with 272 points, downgraded to be an excellent Orange.
4. The Orange label must spend at least 12 years in a barrel, the Silver between 15 and 20, the Gold over 25 years.
5. The room in which the casks are placed cannot be insulated or altered. This makes it hot in summer and cold in winter, allowing the product to thicken when the temperature is high, and clear up when cold.
6. The casks are never emptied, or cleaned. Every year, a small amount of the youngest product will be moved in the cask next in line. Then a small amount of the second will be moved in the third and so on. This is to reactivate the product, that might have become too dense after the summer. It is usually around 10%, but can be more after a very hot season. The process involves every single barrel in the room, down to the smallest one: the oldest and most precious.
7. Casks are usually retired old wine barrels, can be 50-70-100 years old. At the Il Borgo del Balsamico there are casks from the 18th century. If there's a leak, it will be fixed with wooden additions. When the damage is beyond repair, it will be replaced.
8. Different wooden casks are used to make the Traditional of Reggio Emilia: oak, juniper, cherry, chestnut, acacia and ash. Each wood type will add something different and unique to the final product.
9. The Gold Label is considered the perfect bouquet: there is no particular flavour overpowering another. Round, balanced, will leave your palate clean.
10. To best appreciate it? Have one teaspoon at the end of a meal (it is a great digestif), or a few drops on aged Parmesan or strawberries. Never, ever, cook it. Ever.
Our friends at the Il Borgo del Balsamico produce around 100 bottles of Gold Label a year. If for some reason, they are not happy with the product, they will not present it to the jury and certainly do not sell it. The care, love and patience are only few of the elements creating a niche product, something you would cherish in your cooking adventures.
PS. Due to the nature and high value of the product, we do not store it in our London space. We will custom order it for you. Allow additional time to receive it.