In honor of their 30th anniversary, balsamic vinegar makers La Vecchia Dispensa created this commemorative gem, a rich, thick balsamic ideal for drizzling. For this vinegar, the must was cooked down a bit longer than usual, then aged in small, new wood barrels, before being transferred to open barrels to finish fermentation.
Experience over the centuries has shown that balsamic vinegar should be the last ingredient added to any dish, except when used to dress salads; of course, balsamic is excellent in vinaigrettes. A delicious balsamic may be appreciated to the full on flakes of Parmesan cheese, on strawberries, on steak or on ice cream. The 30th-anniversary balsamic is full-bodied and particularly good with venison, as well as duck and other game birds.
What is Balsamic Vinegar?
Balsamic vinegar is vinegar made directly from the must (juice) resulting from crushing Trebbiano grapes. Unlike wine vinegar, the grapes are not turned into wine before being made into vinegar (although the majority of vinegars labeled "balsamic" in the U.S. are wine vinegar, perhaps with grape must added, often just with caramel color added).
In the balsamic-making process, the must is cooked over direct heat, and then aged in a series of differently sized casks of choice woods (oak, mulberry, juniper and chestnut), until the vinegar develops the flavor characteristics of traditional balsamico, a process that takes years. In Italy, there is a distinction between official balsamico tradizionale and everything else. (Condimento balsamico is one way to refer to balsamic-style vinegar that has not received the tradizionale label.) Tradizionale, always very expensive, must pass tastings by a special consortium panel to determine its worthiness. When the vinegar achieves the necessary score from the panel, it is a seal. There are some terrific vinegars out there, however, that are not tradizionale, but are far above the usual supermarket options, too.
About the Producer
La Vecchia Dispensa, based in Modena, was started by the Pelloni family. Originally restaurateurs, they received so many requests for their preserves of fruits and vegetables - and for their balsamic vinegar - that they opened La Vecchia Dispena. The name means "the old dispensa," which refers to a cupboard where families in bygone days stored food preserved during the summer to provision them through the winter.
The family at La Vecchia Dispensa use traditional production methods, transferring their balsamics from barrel to barrel and letting them age in the traditional attic spaces. Like all skilled vinegar artisands, they have their own secrets, handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation. After a certain number of years, the vinegar becomes denser and richer, losing fluidity. At this point it is treated with devotion, and may even be sipped at the end of a meals as an excellent aid to digestion.