Saturday, April 26, 2014

Traditional balsamic vinegar from Acetaia di Giorgio of Modena

Outside of Bologna, and only then having visited for the day, this past October for my honeymoon was the first time I spent a few days exploring the Emilia-Romagna. I can understand why they call this the food capital with all the fresh prosciutto, parmigiano-reggiano, balsamic and salami. I'm going to focus on the region including both their wine and food as the wine of this region. Plus, I have a special visit to an acetaia (Acetaia di Giorgio), where traditional balsamic vinegar is produced.

Acetaia di Giorgio Modena

Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale/Traditional Balsamic Vinegar with Acetaia di Giorgio

The Sunday I was in Parma, my husband and I ventured out to find a place to do tastings of the traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena, that is also produced in Reggio. There is a big difference between this that they call Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale and the kind that many use in the United States. Most of the ones that we find in the supermarkets will say Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, which are wine vinegars that are thickened with a grape must, known as saba, and then colored with caramel and are not even aged. After experiencing the traditional balsamic vinegars of this region you must splurge one day in your life if you can't make it to Emilia-Romanga and order one online or go to a specialty shop and buy one. It will open your eyes to what true balsamic really is.

I had read online about Acetaia di Giorgio so when we pulled up it was just a house, but I saw the plaque with the name so I rang the bell and the owner, Giovanna, answered and invited us in for a tasting. Her husband was out hunting for porcini mushrooms. Once we got up to the top floors of their house as we climbed the stairs the strong aromas of balsamic was amazing. The air was saturated with these smells. I couldn't believe that such history was sitting on the top floor of their house in multiple rooms with barrels lining the walls in multiple rows. There are big barrels leading down to smaller barrels, with the smaller barrels being the oldest. They refill them from big to small so the newest batch is always in the larger barrels when they top them off. 
Giovanna Acetaia di Giorgio Modena
Me and Giovanna
Acetaia di Giorgio traditional balsamic vinegar
Tasting room at Acetaia di Giorgio

The husband, Giorgio, took over the business from his mother 40 years ago. Prior to that they kept the balsamic for personal consumption, as many others do in this region as well, but it had been going on in this family for 120 years. The barrels they used were originals and they continue to reuse them due to the saturation and seasoning. The barrels they used were cherry, juniper and mixed wood. The minimum aging they had was 15 years with the oldest being 25-35+ years. When they had their daughter Carlotta in 1986 they started making a balsamic named after her and just bottled it for the first time last year. This one in particular was written about in the NY Times. I thought the bottle was empty when she poured it as there was a 10 second delay due to the thickness and consistency. The flavors and depth of these balsamic vinegars that we tried were nothing I had ever experienced.

Carlotta tradtional balsamic vinegar Acetaia di Giorgio
storage room
Like the DOC and DOCG of wines they have here the DOP, Denominazione di Origine Protetta. These balsamics are tested for color, taste and acidity. The label can change, but not the bottle, which was designed by Ferrari. Giovanna mentioned that there are 46 producers making about 95,000 bottles and they themselves sell 2,500.

Red wine from Emilia-Romagna

The Emilia-Romagna region has about 20 DOC zones, with four of them Lambrusco DOC zones: Lambrusco Reggiano, known for its Riuniti, Lambrusco Salamino, Lambrusco Sorbara and Lambrusco Grasparossa. The wines of this area have long been known due to lambrusco, but many may think of Riuniti, which is not a classic representation of the Lambrusco of this region as they have dry versions as well. Lambrusco, if you aren't familiar, is typically knows as sweeter and bubbly wine, known as amabile. There are other sparkling wines (frizzante or spumante) also produced from this region from the grapes albana, trebbiano, malvasia as well as chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, especially in the Colli Piacentini area. So get the image of the old lambrusco from the 60's and 70's out of your mind and try some of the others from this region.

In addition to lambrusco, this region also has a history producing sangiovese. Here it differs from that of the Chianti Classico region because it's juicier, but doesn't have the backbone of the tannin and acidity as Chianti Classico does. One of the best areas to explore here for sangiovese is the Sangiovese di Romagna DOC. Outside of sangiovese, other areas like those of Colli Bolognese are producing wines with cabernet sauvignon and Colli Piacentini that are producing a lot of bonarda and barbera.

White wine from Emilia Romagna

Whites of this region in general are typically used as more bulk wine. The main grape widely grown is trebbiano, but there is also albana and pagadebit. Pagadebit tends to be a chalkier wine with a strong acidity and albana, outside of their passito style version, isn't a wine you would rush right out to buy. Although, the Colli Bolognese and Colli Piacenti are experimenting and having some success with chardonnay and sauvignon blanc because of their continental climate.

If you are visiting this region you'll have the opportunity to try many of these wines that may not be so accessible to us here in the states, but you should be able to seek out some lambrusco that I mentioned above. It's worth trying to changing the image that many have of this grape. I wish I had more time in the Emilia-Romagna as there is so much to explore. The food is phenomenal and I cant wait to open my bottle that I brought back from Acetaia di Giorgio and maybe grab some fresh parmigiano-reggiano to add some droplets to it. Yummmm!

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