Thick and viscous, San Giacomo's Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Red label is a superb balance of sweet and savory. After 12 years of aging in wooden barrels, its sharp acidity has been mellowed to perfection. It pairs best with intense flavors and fatty dishes, such as roast turkey, grilled shrimp, or for an innovative dessert, drizzled on panna cotta or gelato. Producer Andrea Bezzecchi likes it on risotto, cooked onions, grilled pork, or mixed with a little bit of soy sauce and some good olive oil as a drizzle for raw fish.
Traditional balsamic vinegar is made by boiling local grapes and can only be produced in Modena and Reggio Emilia regions. Local grapes (in this case, Trebbiano and Lambrusco) are harvested at the peak of ripeness to ensure the optimal sugar content. The grapes are then cooked in open vats until they've boiled down to one-third the volume. This grape must is transferred to barrels made of different types of wood: oak, chestnut, mulberry, cherry, and juniper; each wood imparts its own complexity of flavor and aroma. The barrels have a hole on the top to encourage evaporation; as the water evaporates, the liquid becomes more and more concentrated and is transferred to progressively smaller barrels. This process takes years - and only when the final product is tasted and approved by the certifying committee can it bear the DOP label.
Andrea produces three levels of traditional balsamic vinegar, differentiated by the color of their labels: Red, aged for a minimum of 12 years; Silver
, aged for 18-25 years; and Gold
, also called Extra Vecchio, aged for more than 25 years.