Ancient Traditions and Timeless Passion in Every Drop of Balsamic Vinegar
Techniques of making the true balsamic vinegar are steeped in a bygone history of the Italian province of Modena. The ancient traditions of organic cultivation of grapes, cooking must, decanting, and other stages of creating balsamic vinegar were passed from generation to generation in order to be realized in the eco-friendly and delicious perfection of Acetaia del Cristo products. Two local families united and consolidated centuries of experience to combine generosity of soil, the energy of the sun, organic grapes, power of time, and their passion. The result is the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, which made its creators the winners of Luxury Lifestyle Awards in the category of The Best Luxury Balsamic Vinegars in the World.
The first drop of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena was placed in the first barrel in 1849 – this year is considered the founding date of Acetaia del Cristo. This drop and innumerable drops during the next 170 years became possible by combining the experience, skills, and batteries of century-old casks of two local families – Barbieri and Bellei.
The subsequent history of the famous acetaia is a dynamic process of the increasing number of casks, sons, sons in law, and daughters taking over their parents’ business through four generations of balsamic vinegar producers, now the Barbieri and Bonfatti families. Today Acetaia del Cristo is the most important producer of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) in the world with 2000 casks in the attic. The oldest and most precious barrels date back to 1848, a family treasure.
There are several aspects about Acetaia del Cristo that make this company unique. This production house is cultivating its own organic grape culture. Despite the dark color of the balsamic vinegar itself, it is made from varieties of grape: white grapes Trebbiano and Sauvignon and red grapes Lambrusco Salamino and Lambrusco Sorbara. Each variety of grape is hand-picked annually and cooked separately without skin. The obtained must rests in an open vat during winter, while humidity alongside microorganisms gives a start to the long ageing process. One of the key elements providing the unique taste of balsamic vinegar is changing seasons and temperatures during its ageing.
With the coming of spring, it’s time to transfer the vinegar in specially prepared wooden barrels made of sweet chestnut, oak, ash, cherry tree, acacia, juniper, or mulberry tree. Then the vinegar is transferred in a series of barrels called batteries. Each battery consists of five to seven barrels of different sizes and types of wood. The batteries are put to the rest in the attic, also known as acetaia, for several years. During this period, it is very important to keep the barrels in the same position. Peculiarities of Acetaia del Cristo are the Traditional Single Wood Balsamic Vinegars, aged mainly in a precious wood essence (Juniper, Cherry, Chestnut, Oak, Mulberry) that give unique flavours and aromas.
The company’s products include selections from barrels over 50 years old and others very limited from over one hundred years old barrels. Every year precious numbered collections of 20-30 pieces are sold for € 350 per 100ml bottle. In 2010, Acetaia del Cristo won the Palio di Spilamberto, the most coveted prize from the balsamic vinegar producers in the P.D.O. category, with its fabulous vinegar “Black Diamond”.
One of the most surprising facts for the Luxury Lifestyle Awards experts was that the ageing of the standard version of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO takes at least 12 years, and the ageing process of the extra-old version takes at least 25 years. At first glance, it may seem extremely long, but once you pamper your taste buds with this taste of perfection, you will realize that this long wait is worth it.
Today everyone can visit the unique attics of Acetaia del Cristo and enjoy the experience of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. The company’s owners welcome you to go on a tour along the long corridors and shelves of hundreds of barrels, casks, and ancient vats. Here the visitors can see all stages of the production and ageing of balsamic vinegar, taste, and purchase the acetaia’s products. And thus, you can become a part of the great ancient tradition of the “Balsamic World”.