A THING OR TWO ABOUT MAGNA MATER BALSAMIC VINEGARS AND CONDIMENTS
Balsamic Vinegars, White Condiment, Apple Cider and...the Secret-not-so-secret Ingredient!
Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to introduce you to our new range of organic and biodynamic condiments: a range of vinegars (balsamic and non-balsamic) and two new entries on the UK market!
You all know apple cider vinegar and its amazing super-powers! We’ll talk about this in another article soon. I think it is more urgent to talk about balsamic vinegars as there’s a lot of confusion around the subject, in Italy as well as in the UK. Therefore, we would like to provide some useful information on the where, what, how and when (or, more precisely, how long for) :
There are two protected denominations for the balsamic vinegars, Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and Reggio Emilia PDO and Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI.
A PDO or PGI product can only be produced in a certain area, like Champagne, for example. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and Reggio Emilia can only be produced in Modena, Reggio Emilia and the Emilia Region.
How and when?
The Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and Reggio Emilia PDO (Protected Denomination of origin) is that little but expensive 100 ml bottle that ranges between £40 and a few hundred pounds according to the aging period which has to be a minimum of 12 years.
It is made of grape must cooked for two days until it is reduced to 25% of its original volume and then aged in a system of barrels for at least 12 years.
The barrels have to be an odd number, no less than 5 and usually no more than 9, they are made of different types of wood and are arranged by size from the biggest to the smallest. The biggest barrel, external to the series, is called “badessa” (abbess) and it is where the fermentation starts. Then, once a year, the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar is transferred to the next barrel along the set, usually in winter or spring. After a few years, it reaches the smallest barrel. The “badessa” is topped up with some new cooked grape must every year and every barrel is refilled with product by the previous in line.
During the summer, some of the water component of the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar evaporates making the liquid thicker and more flavoursome. The wood works as a semipermeable container, that lets the water evaporate but keeps in other volatile substances that contribute to the aroma.
After a few years, we end up with layers of traditional Balsamic Vinegar of a different age in all the barrels. The bottom layer of the smallest barrell is the oldest traditional balsamic.
Enough for a headache, isn’t it? This is why in the Vinegar Cellar (that is actually not a cellar but a loft) there is an expert technician overseeing the process. He’s called “The Master of the Vinegar Cellar”.
Different story for the Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI (Protected Geographical Indication). After cooking the grape must, it can be mixed with red wine vinegar in different percentages and stored in barrels for at least 60 days. If the duration is superior to 3 years, the vinegar can be labelled as “aged”.
Usually an entry level Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI has 20% of cooked grape must and 80% of red wine vinegar and is stored for 60 days.
The longer the storage period and the higher the percentage of cooked grape must, the thicker and more expensive the Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI is.
Which one would I recommend? Depending on how often you use it, on which food, how you like it and how much you are willing to spend.
Articles for food and vinegar pairings will come soon!
If you add white wine vinegar instead of red wine vinegar to cooked grape must, you obtain the White Condiment, an amazing pairing for fish and fresh salads.
In order to be sold as Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and Reggio Emilia PDO or Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI it has to be approved and labelled by the Consortium. 2% of caramel is allowed to enhance the colour of the Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI (but not in ours, see below).
What’s special about Magna Mater balsamic vinegars?
They are organic and biodynamic, so:
- you won’t have any unwanted substances in your favourite condiment and the quality of the grapes used is excellent.
- the environment hasn’t been polluted for those magic drops powerfully enhancing the flavour of your dishes.
- farmers are happy workers and don’t risk their health to produce our food
- there is no concentrated grape must, caramel, added sugars and thickeners that you usually find in high street supermarket products as the biodynamic regulations doesn’t allow it.
- There are no added sulphites. On our labels you will read “contains sulphites” which refers to those naturally occurring in grapes.
- The biodynamic certification doesn’t allow the industrialization of the production process.
- All the production process is internal as our producer owns the vineyards which helps traceability and transparency. Our balsamic vinegars are single estate.
I hope you now have a clearer scenario in your head and if you want to join us for a tasting session, email us at email@example.com to the attention of Eleonora.
Lots of love to your taste buds!