Balsamic vinegar, the “black gold” of Emilia Romagna

If the chain of the Apennines rises in the south-west of the region, the strip drawn by Emilia-Romagna, from the Mediterranean Liguria to the shores of the Adriatic, rarely exceeds sea level. The most spectacular landscapes of northern Italy, this agricultural territory drawn by the Po plain nevertheless shapes several peaks of transalpine gastronomy. Whether it’s cheese, with Parmesan, cold cuts – Parma ham, mortadella, but also culatello, zampone (stuffed pig’s trotters), cotechino (cooking sausage)… -, or this wonder little known that is the traditional balsamic vinegar.

“How is that, unrecognized? “ already protests the reader convinced that the sweet and sour liquid with walnut stain tints widely popularized in France since the 1990s, under the name of balsamic vinegar, corresponds to this nectar which only the neighboring towns of Reggio Emilia and Modena can claim the appellation.

Certainly, since the mid-1960s, the Modenese have embarked on the production, often industrial, of a “balsamic vinegar of Modena” (classified as IGP) made from cooked or concentrated grape must, wine vinegar. and caramel, which has become the standard formula for a product sold in millions of liters around the world. But this star of the food industry has only a very remote connection with balsamic vinegar described as “traditional”, made only from cooked grape must, which only time and ancestral know-how are capable of transforming into. a precious elixir whose viscous tears balance like no other sweet, sour and spicy harmonies.

Acetaia Giacomo in Novellara (Reggio Emilia).  The production and aging rooms are located behind the main building.

“We have chosen to continue to drool over it”, notes with a smile Andrea Bezzechi, owner of theacetaia (vinegar) of San Giacomo, in Novellara (Reggio Emilia), recalling how he and the other producers of the appellation “traditional balsamic vinegar of Reggio Emilia” decided to call “balsamic vinegar” only the version the noblest of this condiment. Thus giving up the commercial manna that benefits their neighbors in Modena.

Before being a profession, the production of traditional balsamic vinegar was for him the heritage of a passion. A small manufacturer of agricultural machinery, his father, Carlo Bezzechi, thus made the local magic potion like an amateur sorcerer. « When he died in 1994, we inherited 110 barrels ”, explains his son, then a law student who, two years later, will decide to dive for good in the “black gold” of Emilia-Romagna.

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