A Real-Deal, Modena-Made Balsamic Aged in 5 Types of Wood Barrels

September 18, 2016

A better balsamic does exist. And we’ve found it, i.e. tasted it, for you! (This is where we say, “It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.”) Weary of watered-down balsamics whose origins weren’t clear, we went to our friends at Eattiamo, who find the best Italian food producers and help them bring their products to tables around the world.

Eattiamo introduced us to La Secchia Antica Acetaia, a vinegar house in Modena, Italy reducing, aging, and bottling excellent balsamics. A taste of their rich, velvety balsamic and we knew we had something special on our hands—so we put together a year-long Balsamic Vinegar Subscription (that's a refreshed supply delivered to your doorstep every quarter) and launched it today in our Shop today. (You can also opt for just a single bottle if that's your preference!)

Before we dive into the details of the good stuff, let’s back up a bit here to talk balsamic basics.

Traditional balsamic vinegar comes from Modena, Italy (or neighboring city of Reggio Emilia). It’s made by reducing grape "musts" (the grape’s whole shebang—skin, seeds, stems, and all) and then aging that in wood barrels. There are several designations a balsamic vinegar can take on, depending on how and where it was made. La Secchia Antica Acetaia, who are supplying the balsamics for our subscription, produces two kinds:

  • D.O.P. balsamic, the super-luxurious, tightly-controlled king of balsamics, proven to be made exclusively of specific varieties of grapes grown in Modena and aged in wood barrels for a minimum of 12 years (also in Modena)
  • I.G.P. balsamic, a looser designation, that shows the balsamic was produced in Modena (though the grapes can come from elsewhere), and has a much shorter aging requirement

D.O.P. balsamics are crazy good (we can vouch for La Secchia Antica Acetaia’s!), but are usually very expensive, due to the time-consuming process and small output. The more economical, everyday option is an I.G.P. balsamic.

Photo by James Ransom

One problem, though: because I.G.P. balsamics are more loosely controlled, the quality of the product can vary widely. Walk down the vinegar aisle of the grocery store, and you’ll see many bottles with the I.G.P. distinction—but these vinegars can be doctored up with artificial coloring to make them appear darker, caramels to simulate sweetness, and thickeners to reproduce the syrupy quality of an aged balsamic. Some may have been produced through a forced mechanical process, without much attention to the quality of the grapes or any thought about the barrel-aging process. There’s really no way to tell what’s the real deal when you're standing in that aisle, and what is best left on the shelf.

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The balsamic we chose for you is the best of both worlds: It’s certified I.G.P.—so it won’t break the bank like a pricier D.O.P.—but we (with the help of Eattiamo) did the leg work of making sure this vinegar is pure Modena grape and pure passion. No additional coloring, sweeteners, or thickeners.

Each batch of balsamic is meticulously tested for taste and viscosity (using a tasting vessel and dropper).

As Pietro Guerrera of Eattiamo said, “When a vinegar is made through a mechanically-forced process… there is something missing.” And what’s missing is character, "the perfection of the imperfection,” he called it.

La Secchia’s balsamic is made with a respect for the process: the highest quality grape musts, aged in 5 different types of wood barrels, including cherry, oak, acacia, chestnut, and mulberry. It’s the real-deal good stuff, from a vinegar house that is dedicated to the traditional process of vinegar-making.

La Secchia Antica Acetaia is a product of a widespread movement of young Italians eschewing stressful jobs in larger cities and returning to their families’ roots—be that wine-making, cheese-making, or in this case, producing fine vinegars.

Theirs is one of about 100 smaller, family-run vinegar houses in Modena that are paying close attention to the traditional ways of vinegar-making, in contrast to the larger companies that have cropped up to mass-produce the I.G.P. vinegars you see most often at the grocery store.

Your balsamic vinegar, taking on the flavors of their barrels.

This balsamic won’t disappoint—and you can make sure it's always on hand with our yearly subscription. You’ll get a bottle of La Secchia Antica Acetaia’s I.G.P. balsamic vinegar quarterly for a year (every 3 months), for a total of four 8-ounce bottles.

After all, balsamic is a dependable, and at times surprising, part of our pantries. Dependable when you need a vinaigrette that doesn’t involve more than 2 ingredients (or the chopping of a clove or garlic or shallot), surprising when you think to add a splash of it to a caramel sauce or remember that it works voodoo magic on strawberries and vanilla ice cream.

And believe you us, this stuff sings on its own, so do as the Italians do, and drizzle it right onto a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano. But however you choose to use La Secchia’s balsamic, you can do so knowing it's truly (as Pietro describes it) “drops of their passion.”

Find (and shop) our new balsamic by the bottle or the year-long subscription, right this way, in our Shop. And tell us: What's your favorite way to use balsamic when you cook?

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Olivia Bloom

Written by: Olivia Bloom

Has a soft spot for string cheese.