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Aged Balsamico

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I'd love to find a good local source of aged balsamico.  Do you know if they carry balsamico that is say 10 years old? 20? 50?

We sell carrandini 20 year and 28 year balsamicos. Not cheap but very pure and ture age products.

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I'd love to find a good local source of aged balsamico. Do you know if they carry balsamico that is say 10 years old? 20? 50?

When you get into 50 year old Balsamic you're approaching rarified territory. Several days ago we opened a corked bottle of gold label Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale that I bought in Bologna about five or six years ago. At the time the Euro was .83 to the U. S. dollar; this was Euro 120, so it cost me about $100.00 for 100 ml. Today, this would be around US $150-200 for about 5-6 ounces. There are two lesser grades of Aceto Balsamico (silver and bronze) but they are still horrendously expensive. We all tasted this from a spoon without anything to interfere/color its flavor. Syrupy, intense, actually sweet: I was told in Italy that this could be eaten over Vanilla ice cream and having tasted this I agree. God, it was like nectar with absolutely nothing in common with any image or taste of vinegar, balsamic or otherwise that I could ever imagine! I've seen this in America at a few places usually under lock and key.

In any event the empty bottle is now on a prominent shelf in our house, displayed as a one time indulgence with reverential envy for anyone able to taste this more than once in a lifetime!

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There are wide range of products available as aged balsamico.

The first distinction is 4% acidity product sold as Tradizionale. These are products bottled by the consorzio in the small 100 ml bottles with reputed ages of 25 and 50 years. Having met several producers, these age claims are pretty much troublesome as a pure 50 year old balsamico would be mostly jelly like and not pourable. So these products have something younger to cut them and keep them fully liquid. These are the balsamicos you will see for $200 a bottle or more and they are quite syrupy, but this is actually not the most traditional style.

The most traditional style is actually 6% acidity. These products are not strictly regulated and their quality depends only on the integrity of the producer. But when they are good, they are incredible.

I mentioned upthread Carrandini. Giovanni and his father and brother have an empire of balsamico. They are rigourous in keeping their young commercial products differentiated from their artisinal products. We use their 20 year product on steaks or other savory products.

The vinegars are kept in a set of barrels for 3 years and are topped up with vinegar from the same battery or barrels of the same age. After three years, the entire battery is emptied and put into a new set of barrels. After the first battery is emptied, there is a mix of 1 to 3 year old balsamicos (the first set of barrels are filled once a year with the boiled must of newly harvested trebbiano grapes. After three years, the barrels have had three shots of fresh trebbiano and aged for a year after each shot. To Carrandini the product at this point is only one year old,. the ages of the youngest portion. After being put into the second battery of barrels and being topped from that set of barrels for three years, the product is now 4 years old.

At any point along the way, he may switch the wood the vinegar is being aged in (some woods add aromatics, some darken the vinegar, some sweeten etc). He may also add older vinegars that have not fufilled their promise. When he needs to bottle a younger vinegar, he selects off barrels that are harmonious in a blend and that do not have the potential to age further and pay off in quality.

So each age lever of vinegal consists of a mixture of older and younger vinegars with the "age" of the barrel being the age of the youngest vinegar in the barrel. So when Carrandini claims that this is a 20 year product, it means it has gone thru about 7 batteries and that the yougest vinegar in the final prduct is at least 20 years old with the possibility of much older vinegar being in there. His 28 year old Stravecchio Black gold is what we use on ice cream or cheese. It is really special stuff. Because it is not sold thru the consorzio, it is far less costly per ounce than the tradizionales and, to my mind, better. It goes for about 150 a bottle for 8 oz. The 20 is about 100 a bottle for 8 oz. They have more acidity, more zing and more complexity. But others may disagree, preferring the sweeter and, to me, more cloying effect of the tradizionale.

This all makes sense to me but I have had one of Chris' Negroni's and a large tot of Bruichladdie Murray McDavid 14 year old.

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QUOTE deangold

QUOTE(xcanuck @ Jan 25 2007, 11:04 AM) post_snapback.gif No idea how old "Very Old" is but it made my eyes roll back. Sweet, dark, and syrupy....oh, wow.

Minimum age of the vinegar is 20 years but sice they use a modified solera method, there are vinegars much older. Its by Carrandini and imported by Neil Rosenthal.

This exchange inspired a question from Don Rocks about the Balsamico. Balsamico is a lot like political promises... they are easy to state but its hard to see if they even hold water. Moist Balsamico called 10 year old just has some 10 year old balsamico in it. The stuff that TJ's sells for instance, to my palate tastes like an overly cooked, syrupy blend of mostly young stuff, not a 10 year old balsamico as they used to (and still may) claim. In any case, it is the brand on the bottle that insures the age, not the number. So I replied to Rocks with a (long) spiel based on my 3 visits to my favorite Balsamico producer.... Carrandini. I love their style, pure fruit, strong acidity, complex flavors. They are not heavy and sweet vinegars like some people like, so just because I believe in their real age attributes, and in the product itself, they may not be to your taste. In any case, here is what I wrote Rocks and he suggested I post it here.


I don't believe it - are you saying that every molecule of the youngest vinegar takes > 20 years to exit the solera?

{Speaking of Carrandini}

Yep. Well I don't know if every molecule because the acetaia is loaded with vinegar fumes. If they have not been in for a few weeks they have to air out the room before you can enter so there may be direct barrel to barrel transfer of molecules :lol:

They empty every level of the solera every three years. They call a group of barrels with the same vinegar batch in it a battery. Battery one is the only battery they add new vinegar to. Each year, just before vinegar season, some of battery one (about 1/3) is removed and added to battery 2 or is bottled as one year old vinegar. Then battery one is topped up (until each barrel is 3/4 full) with must boiled down the previous year and fermented with older vinegars, not wine vinegar or chemical starters etc. Over the next year, the vinegar will evaporate from the battery being 3/4 full to 1/2 full. The next year about 1/3 of the barrel is pulled and added to battery 2. Then it is topped again.

After three years, battery one is emptied completely and put in battery 2. Battery 2 now has nothing but 1 year old plus vinegars. Battery 3 has nothing but 4 plus year old vinegars. So on and so forth. When battery 7 is emptied, the vinegar in there is at least 19 years old. Some of the 19 yo stuff is put into the 20 year blend and aged a year before bottling. Most of it is put thru one more battery to get it richer for the 20 year blend. The rest is aged further to try for their 28 year old extravecchio. Some makes it and some is back blended into the 20. A tiny amount is saved for special events. On her wedding night and on the night of the birth of her children, Carrandini's wife got to taste a spoonful of the 140 year old barrel that was a gift to Giovanni on his wedding day. It is a tiny barrel holding a couple of liters only. I asked her how it tasted and she laughed and said considering the circumstances, she really didn't remember any of the tastes!

What is interesting is that their vinegars available for bottling are the following ages:









27 (this stuff is never used for the 28 year blend at this time, it still goes thru one more battery)


33 etc.

Once a retail blend is created, they wait a year to bottle it. So add one year to each of the vinegars for their minimum age in the bottle. But when you buy the stuff, here are the ages:

3 (actually 4)

6 (actually 8)

10 (actually 11)

12 (actually 14)

20 (actually 23 in practice but there might be some 20)

28 (actually 30 in practice)

The ages used are traditional to Modena but the vinegars used are at the whim of Carrandini Giovanni. Since they have huge stocks of the old stuff (The cask that holds the 30 year is 3000 liters. The last I saw, it was 2/3 full. That's 8000 bottles of vinegar that sells for €80 there!) they in fact often are bottling even older stuff than they indicate. Once the vinegar is made, it cost them little compared to the huge flow of young vinegars they make... they have a huge market for organic vinegars in Japan and have a few PL accounts in the US. You cannot buy a 13 yo blend from them... 13 is as unlucky in vinegars as it is in the rest of the western world. But you can buy a 13 year old vinegar called a 12 yo vinegar. Imaging that, a producer who undersells his product!

In making the vinegars, most of the barrels are oak. Up to around the 6th year, the vinegars are very sensitive to the type of wood they are in. So they tase each batch and deicde to put it into different kinds of wood: chestnut, cherry, acacia etc. Each type of wood will have an effect on the vinegar that may not be truly evident for 5 or 10 years. It is only recently that Carrandini got to taste the first 30 year vinegars he made so he can now make vinegar from personal experience from boiled must to finished product.

Carrandini does submit some vinegar to the consorzio, but most if sold under their own labels which is the guarantee of quality. The consorzio bottlings are 4%, and sold for a lot more money in the specuial 100ml bottle and box of the consorzio. They bottle their old vinegars under the Carrandini label at 6% acidity and not the more common 4, in 250 ml bottles. Their 250ml bottle is less in price than the consorzio bottling. GO figure. That is why they do not sell most of their vinegars thru the consorzio.

It is also why they have no 50 year.... once a vinegar with no young stuff added reached 40 to 50 years, it jellies up and is no pourable. So anything you see that is called 50 year and is pourable is actually bogus or has younger vinegars blended in to thin it and keep it liquid.

I have visited them 3 times and seen the operation. The old vinegar acetaia is huge and must be seen to be believed. I saw it in version 2 when it was maybe 2000 or 3000 square feet of barrels of various ages. I got to stick my finger in a barrel of 35 year old vinegar, that while old enough for the 28 year blend was not concentrated enough. This is the only person whose labels I believe in Modena Balsamico.

There are two or three others who are reputable, Malphigi comes to mind but I have never visited. And San Georgio is Emilia Romagna is also a purist.

You can find Carrandini on line at Niel Rosenthal's web site: http://madrose.com/

We usually have the 20 year old in stock and sometimes sell the 28 as well.

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Dean - that was a great "treatise" on balsamic. Thanks for the info!

Have you (or any others on the board) heard of a producer called La Vecchia Dispensa? Zingermans (the Ann Arbor based deli/fine food purveyors) sell 10 yr, 30yr and 100 yr bottles from them. It doesn't go through the approval process to be labelled 'tradizionale' so it's fairly affordable ($35 for 250ml, $30 for 100ml, and $700 for 100ml respectively). Zingermans is having a sale on their balsamic right now so I'm thinking of ordering some if you think it's worthwhile.

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I found some Leonardi, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP (100ml) at TJ Maxx (alas in Flagler Beach Florida) for very cheap ($25), so took the risk and went ahead and bought one.  But it's hard to figure out just what level it is, presuming that the label/box is genuine.  From its website this producer seems to have a huge variety of specific vinegars.    It's in a very fancy red box with lots of gold decoration and a very fancy packing arrangement, ribbons etc., and that particular bottle shape according to them is supposed to show it is somewhat special, but no indication of its age.  I haven't tried it yet.  Can anybody hazard a guess whether this is the real stuff?  Somewhere I found that "tradizionale" signifies it's at least 12 years old, and above Dean talks about 25 and 50.

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