Traditional Balsamic Vinegar as a Symbol of Excellence: Interview Massimo Malpighi, President of Acetaia Malpighi
Acetaia Malpighi is one of the oldest and most renowned producers of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. Its dedication to tradition and the highest quality has allowed this family business to create products that have won the hearts and taste buds of gourmets all over the world. One of those products is the Saporoso Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, which earned the company a win at the Luxury Lifestyle Awards in the category of The Best Luxury Balsamic Vinegar in the World. We talked about the brand’s success with Massimo Malpighi, President of Acetaia Malpighi.
Luxury Lifestyle Awards: Please tell us about yourself and your professional background.
Massimo Malpighi: I was born into the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, and as I always say, Balsamic Vinegar runs through my veins. After completing my high school studies and obtaining a specialization in Marketing, I’ve started working in the family business, the production of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. I am the fifth generation after Pietro, Augusto, my grandmother Maria, and my father Hermes, who passed this passion for the family business on to me. My father is also one of the founders of the Consortium for Protection of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and a Master Taster of the Consortium. Tradition, passion, and intuition are the main qualities characterizing Acetaia Malpighi. We are one of the most important producers of high-quality Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP. I’m a “Sommelier of Balsamico”, ambassador of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP in the world, especially in partnership with cooking schools and Universities.
LLA: Modena is famous for its excellent producers of balsamic vinegar. What makes Acetaia Malpighi stand out from other regional brands?
MM: We always try to be the best, the “Ferrari” of the Balsamic Vinegars, but, at the same time, we have the humility to commit ourselves to the highest levels to produce our products respecting the ancient tradition of our Family. Most of the companies of Balsamic Vinegar respect the tradition, and there are a lot of high-level companies, but you can also find some companies that prefer profit to tradition.
LLA: The Malpighi family has been making amazing products for more than 170 years. What is the secret of this success?
MM: We try to respect the raw material and the time, and we will not compromise standards. Our target is to respect and valorize the brand, and our desire is to make culture. The products have great versatile uses; they should not cover the taste but enhance the dishes. Last year, we celebrated 170 years of the Malpighi Family, 5 generations, one of the founders of the Consortium, and we were among the first to believe in the DOP certification. We are always looking to innovate the products and the packaging, and we always study innovative recipes.
We think that today is not only important how we produce a product but we have to show how to make it.
LLA: Could you describe the production process for balsamic vinegar of Modena? What are the essential elements of this process?
MM: No summer or winter can disturb it. On the contrary, hot summers and cold winters are factors that contribute to making a high-gastronomy product like the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP so special, produced by our family company since 1850.
The Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP ages inside wooden barrels for at least 12 or 25 years. Its particular 100 ml bottle, created by the designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, is famous all over the world, and it is the only one permitted by law.
5 conditions are necessary to the production of the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP:
- The microclimate of Modena, cold for settling and warm for fermentation.
It is exactly the microclimate of Modena and its district, with bitterly cold winters and scorching and humid hot summers, the sufficient and necessary condition to produce a Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP that is unique in the world. Therefore, its existence is due to the particular microclimate characteristics of our territory, added to the knowledges, competences, and secrets that the human factor has elaborated and transmitted concerning the development of the history of Vinegar, recipes, and preparation methods.
- Typical Modenese grapes
Acetaia Malpighi favours: Lambrusco of Modena (red grape), Trebbiano of Spain, and Trebbiano of Modena (white grapes).
They must be made of different woods: cherry wood, acacia wood, chestnut, durmast, mulberry, and juniper wood.
- The Consortium of Producers Antiche Acetaie
It has the aim to carry out an intense knowledge-increasing and promotional activity and to obtain all the legal recognitions necessary to attain the designation of origin to permit the commercialization of this particular product. To attain such designation, the product needs to be obtained from must, cooked on direct heat with an open vase, of grapes produced in vines traditionally cultivated in the district of Modena, by sugary and acetic fermentation and through an optimal ripening, aging, and perfecting of the product for a number of years not lower than twelve.
- A producer
The family Malpighi has been producing Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP for 5 generations (1850).
How we produce the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP.
An odyssey of taste lasting at least 12 years transforms the product of Modenese vines into the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP.
Its origin is the grape that, cooked with open vase, releases an ecstatic scent floating in the air.
The must thickens and starts getting its traditional dark brown colour.
Then it is time for the must to ripen inside the wooden barrels: it needs a temperature variation that only the Modenese sultry summers and frosty winters can guarantee.
However, it’s slow aging inside the barrels is not marked only by the changing seasons, but also by a painstaking pouring it from a bigger to a smaller barrel.
The precious woods of our barrels colour with essences the sweet and sour “Balsamo”.
To each wood corresponds a fragrance. Thus, the fact that each family of producers personally chooses the woods for its barrels guarantees a literally unique taste to each Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP.
Shaped by decades of bad weather, kept into selected Italian wood barrels, the precious liquid arrives at the end of its odyssey of taste.
Now, it is ready to be tasted: rigorously “raw”, poured in little drops on a teaspoon made of white porcelain or plastic, never of metal.
LLA: Does Acetaia Malpighi produce anything other than balsamic vinegar?
MM: The Malpighi Family has a farm located outside of Modena, in which we cultivate medicinal herbs, organic lavender, pomegranate, and the grape must to produce the Balsamic Vinegar.
LLA: There are many fakes and imitations of traditional balsamic vinegar. How can consumers tell the difference between the original product and a fake?
MM: There are two main differences that make the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP (that is with Protected Designation of Origin) not comparable to the sweet and sour vinegars of industrial origin. First of all, the basic ingredient: the cooked grape must, not wine, like in the other vinegars on the market. But there is also another difference that for sure does not pass the palate undetected. The Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP ages inside wooden barrels for at least 12 or 25 years and its particular 100 ml bottle, created by the designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, is famous all over the world, and it is the only one permitted by law.
LLA: What are the best ways to use and consume balsamic vinegar?
MM: Perfect to be tasted in drops using white porcelain or plastic (but not aluminium) teaspoons, at the end of the meal as a digestif. It gives the best of itself when used raw and poured in small drops on Parmesan cheese flakes, fresh strawberries, vanilla ice cream. It is an original ingredient for refined cocktails. It does not cover flavors; it enhances them.
An original suggestion: The Extravecchio (Extra Old), branded Malpighi, in the refined cocktail “Antico Mosto” (Ancient must): 3.5 cl of Brachetto Terre Filari, 3cl of Magique Noir, 0.5cl of Extra Vecchio, ice, and mixer.
LLA: This year, Acetaia Malpighi won the Luxury Lifestyle Awards as one of the best producers of luxury balsamic vinegar in the world. In your opinion, what has brought Saporoso such high recognition from LLA experts?
MM: Saporoso is our Condiment with “Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP”, obtained from the cooked grape must of Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes from our vineyards. It is aged in oak wooden barrels for at least 6 years, and it is very versatile in cooking. I personally supervised the research and product development, and I designed the packaging. We followed the knowledge and the tradition passed down for 5 generations to realize a product for daily use; many call it a “jewel”.
LLA: What would you advise to people who want not only to taste the original Balsamic Vinegar of Modena by Acetaia Malpighi but also to touch the history and traditions of the brand and the region?
MM: We always suggest visiting our facility. We are open every day and for everybody. During the tour, you can walk through the vineyards, visit our ancient vinegar cellars, and taste all our vinegars, from the younger to the older. This is a unique and exciting experience.