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A rare artisan product in the modern world
The seemingly easy production method of Balsamico is rather complex to put into operation in the reality. Every artisan family of handmade Balsamico meticulously passes down their secretive techniques from generation to generation. The key to successfully operating an ancetaia (a vinagar factory) is the accumulation of experience and our firm belief in "Experientia Magistra Vitae"--Experiences lead to perfection.
The production process is composed of four steps:
Every valuable drop of Balsamico originates from the vineyards located exclusively in the Modena area. The production of Balsamico heavily depends on the quality of grapes, which are hand-collected meticulously in the second half of September when a perfect ratio of sweetness and acidity is reached. Immediately after crushing the grapes, workers then proceed with processing and fermenting the fresh grape must. During the process, open vessels containing the grape must
are put directly on fire, a technique certified by Italian Protected Designation of Origin. This process facilitates the evaporation of water, the concentration of sugar, and the caramelization of the product.
After being cooked, the grape must is then processed with alcoholic and acetic fermentation. During the first stage, sugars are fermented to alcohol by yeasts, including saccharomyces and zigosaccharomices, that are able to work in an anaerobic environment with temperatures ranging strictly from 18 ° C to 30 ° C. This first phase produces biggest barrels. Meanwhile, acetic fermentation takes place almost simultaneously, when acetobacters transform the alcohol generated by yeasts into acetic acid through oxidation. During this phase, products inside big barrels are gradually condensed, and are transferred into medium and then small barrels.
At this stage, fermentation slows down, while the enzymatic reactions kick in, generating unique perfumes, aromas and distinctive flavors of Balsamico. The unique characteristics of Balsamic are formed in the enzymatic process and will be consolidated in the aging stage. Usually, this phase takes place in the medium-size ones of the array of barrels. Every year, the product from the previous barrel is transferred to a smaller one, which is a process called travasazione. This transfer of products from one barrel to a smaller one, and the addition of freshly cooked must into the biggest barrel, which take place at the same time, are done between September and October until early March when yeast reaction is paused. Still, everything is done by hand to ensure the quality of products. As we can see, the value of wooden barrels in the production of Balsamic vinegar is inestimable. The bigger barrels are made of soft and porous timber to facilitate evaporation and acidification; the smaller barrels, on the other hand, are made of hard woods to preserve the aged product.
In this phase, the products obtained from the previous phases are placed into the smallest barrels in which the products consolidate the unique organoleptic characteristics of Balsamico by establishing an entity and a structure within a perfect and harmonious equilibrium between sweetness and acidity. In this process, several elements play a crucial role: the time, the unique climate conditions in Modena, as long as the changes in temperature and humidity caused by the season alternations. All of the special effects of these elements converge within Balsamic vinegar to produce its unique and distinctive flavors.
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