Since we took the day off today, we visited the wine shop or “Enoteca, as they are called here located on the premises. We had an opportunity to taste a variety of wines, especially Brunelo’s and Super Tuscan’s. The highlight however, was visiting the Balsameria (location where Balsamic vinegar is made).
The vinegar produced by Banfi is aged for 12 years. What we did not know was the process and lengthy voyage from grape to classic vinegar. After the grapes (2 different types) are crushed and cooked, they are placed into large barrels. Then a starter (called the “mother”) is added and the ingredients are left to age in a large barrel for two years. The mixture is then transferred to smaller barrels made from oak. From this point, every two years the mixture is moved to a different barrel made from different kind of wood (including alder, apple, mulberry, oak). Each time the vinegar is transferred, some of the product is left behind and is mixed with the newer batch.
This process continues for twelve years (the vinegar residing in each different barrel for two years at a time) and the end result is a vinegar that is hard to describe. If the opportunity presents itself, taste some of this true balsamic style vinegar(very different from the Costco versions). It is like a very sweet (with a pronounced raisin flavor) wine. In fact, we were told it is sometimes consumed as an aperitif. Suggestions are to drizzle it onto berries, ice cream, cheese, or a good salad. At 40 Euros for a small (about 10 ounce) bottle, a little goes a long way. This is particularly good as it can be as expensive as some great wines.
A footnote to this is that “true” balsamic vinegar is from a particularly region only, so the vinegar produced here must be officially considered balsamic “style”, as they use the traditional method for production. This is reminiscent of the nuance when referring to “champagne”.