Sweet taste balsamic vinegar comes from two things – high sugar grapes such as those of the Trebbiano variety, and timing.
The thing is, that the grapes must be harvested at the end of the season, when the sugar content is highest. Machines are not suitable for harvesting more mature grapes, but Romano does it perfectly. – I collect grapes from 60 years. And I know about them. This year they are excellent.
Romano and his colleague Giullio can collect daily to 300 kilograms of grapes.
To maintain its exclusivity, Italian producers produce no more than 10 thousand liters balsamic vinegar. Just to be sure, that the best and most ripe grapes are used in the production, most of the activities are done manually. But hand stripping the grapes, would take too long. This is done by having almost 100 years old stalk removal machine.
A spiral blade spins inside the perforated reservoir, the pressed juice flows through the holes, and the peduncles fall to the ground. The problem is that, that the juice is mixed with the skins and seeds. In the past, the juice was pressed by children trampling in barrels. Today they have been replaced by a mechanical extrusion press. – Juice is very valuable and we don't want to waste it. In less than an hour with 100 kilograms of fruit pulp are pressed 70 liters of sweet juice, called the must.
Things get complicated – airborne yeast gets into the must, which begin to convert sugars into alcohol.
Davide, the owner of the winery, does not want the wine must be turned into wine. The fermentation process should be delayed – so the must is heated to kill the mushrooms and increase the sugar content. – The must is warmed up around the clock, not allowing it to boil.
After 24 hours and half of the water has evaporated, the must is caramel in color. The must must contain a certain amount of sugar.
Davide can't just rely on his sense of taste, so he reaches for a device called a sugar meter. The instrument measures the density of the solution. The higher the density, the higher the sugar content. – This is great. When the sugar content reaches 30% the next stage of production begins balsamic vinegar.
So far it was about that, to kill microbes – balsamic vinegar will not be made without their participation – therefore the concentrated must is poured into the so-called. mother barrels. The acetic acid bacteria left over from previous production immediately go to work. The idea is to produce balsamic vinegar with a complex sweet and sour taste. And this can only be achieved by ripening the must for at least 12 years.
The wine matures in cool cellars, to protect them from temperature changes, that could turn them into vinegar. The opposite is true here, so the must matures in the attic. Changes in temperature and humidity favor the transformation into balsamic vinegar. – The attic is my place of work, I spend most of my life here – says Davide.
The task is to concentrate the flavor and increase the density, which is obtained by pouring the must into smaller and smaller barrels – made of various types of wood.
Each barrel adds a different flavor, and the access of oxygen allows the growth of acetic acid fermentation bacteria.
After a year, the barrel evaporates over 10% fluid, so the contents would solidify over time, to prevent this, the contents are topped up with liquid from younger barrels.
After all, in the middle of winter, a liter of the finished product is drawn from each of the smallest barrels balsamic vinegar.
Consortium of balsamic vinegar producers, would not release it to the market without quality control. Experienced tasters evaluate the taste and aroma, as well as the color and density of balsamic vinegar.
Now you can start pouring into small bottles 100 ml. Depending on age and origin, a liter balsamic vinegar it can even cost you 4000 dollars, that is, as much as 2 boxes of good champagne.