Aged Balsamic originates from two designated regions of Italy -- Modena and Emilia Reggio – just west of Bologna. These regions are characterized by hot summer evenings and cool winter nights, which are ideal for the Balsamic aging process – a process that typically occurs in attics on select family estates. Many of these Italian families have been producing their Balsamic since the Middle -Ages and the Renaissance, in accordance with their own secret methods that have taken ages to develop, and which as one author puts it, “remain shrouded in mystery."
Usually the process of making true Aged Balsamic begins with the harvesting of Trebbiano grapes at their ripest point, though other grapes such as Occcio du Gatto, Spergola , and red Berzmino or Lambrusco may be used and added as well. Once harvested, the grapes are then pressed into a juice called “mosto” or “must,” which is then cooked in pots over a direct flame. The “must” is then simmered for 24 to 30 hours, until it becomes an intensely sweet concentrate and reduced in volume by one half or more. During the simmering process, the sugars of the grapes are caramelized. This unfermented juice is then cooked once again and allowed to settle. Per tradition and family method, the unfermented juice is then transferred to a “batteria,” which is a set of progressively smaller barrels made of both soft and hard woods such as ash, oak chestnut, cherry, mulberry and juniper depending on the preference of each producer. The “batteria” minimally consists of no less than 3 barrels and typically no more than 7 barrels of various sizes. The barrels impart flavor and color to the concentrate, resulting in giving the elixir its multilayered character and complexity.