Balsamic Vinegar FAQ
Q: What is balsamic vinegar?
A: It is a vinegar resulting from the single fermentation of grape must, which can only be called balsamic if it is made in the region of Emilia Romagna from specific grape varieties which are grown strictly in that region of Italy.
Q: What criteria determines quality in balsamic vinegar?
Made from ripe, sound grapes picked at their peak
Only a small amount of barrel aged wine vinegar from Modena is added, if any
No caramel color is used - or needed! (although it is permissible by Italian law)
Must is cooked in kettles to naturally caramelize the grape sugar for complexity, natural mahogany color, and heighted natural density which comes from a loss in water volume through reduction over heat.
Aged in fired wood barrels which have been charred on the interior and which have been in continuous use for long periods of time. Such barrels will have contained previous batches of balsamic dating back for decades or even centuries. The residual must from prior batches add coveted complexity to the product. In addition, the barrels teem with very old strains of probiotics (acetic bacteria + yeast AKA the mother) which are considered to be very much a part of the region’s “terroir”.
Aging balsamic in multiple types of wood barrels is desirable. By using numerous types of wood, a balsamic maker can dramatically affect flavor and complexity as the balsamic ages in them over time. The more barrels in the system, the better. A minimum of three types of wood barrels are mandatory for aging product to be designated as “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale”. Our Traditional Style Balsamic is aged in five types of wood barrels including: oak, mulberry, ash, juniper, and cherry.
Q: Can balsamic contain other ingredients such as thickeners, i.e. cornstarch, Xanthan gum, refined sugar etc. and still be considered authentic balsamic?
A: No. It’s like extra virgin olive oil in the sense that if anything is added, it loses any Italian designation it may have had. However, this concept is strictly predicated on Italian laws which define the category in Italy. Unlike olive oil which has some basic consensus worldwide for defining the various grades, it is only in Italy that you will find any regulation of the product categories and designations.
Q: What is the mother in balsamic vinegar?
A: The mother is the probiotic colony consisting of yeast and acetic bacteria which work in tandem to ferment the product. Acetic bacteria is unique in that it thrives in the high acidity of vinegar, whereas most other forms of bacteria would be killed by the extreme environment.
Q: Is the mother good or bad for me and the vinegar?
A: Strong research asserts that the probiotic found in vinegar which hasn’t been heat pasteurized to kill off the bacteria is beneficial for gut health.
Q: Are there phenols in balsamic vinegar?
A: Yes, because the skins and flesh of the grape are all crushed to make balsamic, unique phenols, minerals, and vitamins are present in balsamic along with the probiotic colony, if unpasteurized.
Q: Why would vinegar be heat pasteurized?
A: Heat pasteurization is means to kill the bacteria and mother, so that the product can sit for extremely long periods of time on a supermarket shelf and not ever have the mother manifest in the vinegar.
Q: Why does the mother show up so quickly sometimes?
A: Vinegar mother loves temperatures around 80 degrees F., light, and oxygen. All of these things speed up the formation of cellulose which is a byproduct of the mother’s fermentation process.