Making Balsamic Vinegar: The Solera Method
Traditional balsamic vinegars are made in Modena or Emilio Reggiano, Italy according to a method that dates back to ancient Rome. The process begins with cooking the juice or “must” of high quality Trebbiano or Lambrusco grapes over an open wood fire until a brown, syrupy liquid with a good grape smell is obtained. The cooked must is then placed in very old wood barrels made of oak, cherry, chestnut, ash and juniper. Each barrel holds a progressively smaller capacity and is left open to allow for evaporation. The barrels are then stored in an attic where seasonal climate changes determine the speed of fermentation.
The must is then aged for a minimum of twelve years following the Solera method. According to this method, as a portion of the vinegar evaporates, each barrel is “topped off” with younger vinegar from the previous barrel. Over the years, as it moves down this “batteria” of barrels , the vinegar absorbs the flavors and aromas of the different types of woods. The result of this aging process is a delicious, sweet, thick and rich balsamic vinegar with a unique and complex character.