It's not a chance American magazine Forbes called Emilia Romagna region 'stomach of Europe': Italy comes with the highest number of PDO foodstuffs all over Europe, Emilia Romagna region coming with the highest number of PDO foodstuffs all over the country. You could easily argue that in here food is just not about nutrition, but rather tradition, love and passional enjoynment. From seductive, tasty aromas of Parma Ham and Culatellos to crunchiness of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, from yellow, vivid shade of handmade, eggs-featuring tortellini, tortelli, tagliatelle to lovely Ferrara bread, all of the region most beloved foodstuffs make their way to Bologna, heart and cradle of the area.
And among them, a very special mention goes to the most representative foodstuff of the city of Modena, ie the black, thick, viscous syrup going under name of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar. Balsamic is both symbol of the city, along with Ferrari racing cars and Maestro Luciano Pavarotti opera tunes, as well as a mandatory, beloved presence on all of Modena city meals.
First introduced by Romans two thousand years ago, production of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar in Modena still follows secretive rules of ancient, centuries-old tradition, by means of aging cooked grape juice into special workshops called acetaie. Those are special workshops devoted to Balsamic production only, where grape juice slowly changes, year after year, into the black, viscous syrup the city is renown for.
Time runs differently, at acetaias. It is a time of fond family memories, patience, waiting, attentive care and eager expectations. Entering acetaias is just really like taking steps back into time, savy productions skills having been handed down from one generation to another of a family, from grandparents to grandchildren. And this is what makes Balsamic Vinegar so special: it is right at the heart of Modena families. At its core, it is a strict family tradition.
Balsamic is produced out of different assembly lines of wooden barrels, from larger to smaller ones, each and everyone of them coming out of different aromatic woods - oak, chestnut, cherry tree, plum tree - and preserved into dark, shady attics of local dwelling units. Just after harvest, from August to September, local grapes Lambrusco and Trebbiano endure a pressing process by means of a soft press, yielding sweet grape juyce, later on to be boiled into deep cauldroms and to be filled into the wooden barrels.
And this is where magic happens: hot temperatures of summertime, the yiests and bacteria having survived the boiling process and the fragrant, refined scents of aromatic woods mix themselves together, creating one extraordinary rich, dense, totally exciting taste, whose texture softly envelopes palat, reminiscing of grapes and refined, ancient woods. A precious aroma tasting like precious, distant family memories.
Balsamic Vinegar was the most precious possession of local families: located in the attics on top of dwelling units, the wooden barrels flanked life of families underneath, year after year. It was the most precious and appreciated gift, proud symbol of the family itself, been provided for marriages and important celebrations, even making dowries for soon-brides-to be. New assembly lines of wooden barrels were inaugurated when a girl was born into a family. Life family and traditional balsamic vinegar were intertwined.
Acetaia Cà dal Non dates back to 1883: this is when Mr. Alfonso Montanari placed his very first wooden barrel in the attics of his beautiful stone-built mansion at the border of Vignola village, at the very centre of the area of the Region mostly renown for cherries production. One hundred and forty years and three generations later, Montanari family members still take care of the precious heritage having been left by him. And they do that with passion, heart and pride: they welcome visitors into their own house, sharing precious memories of their own family story, offering tours and providing tastings of Balsamic Vinegar out of their many batterias. Here, Balsanic is not food. It is tradition, passion, family values and life.