This is some serious balsamic.
As they will tell you at La Vecchia Dispensa, creating a young, versatile balsamic, with the right balance of acidity and sweetness is an art, and the art is in the blending – without using any wine vinegar of course. The right amounts of old balsamics with their sweet flavor profiles and young, feisty balsamics with lots of acidity.
That is exactly what they've done here. Their "Spalla" is known as 12-Year here in the USA to give you a feel for the age of some of the balsamics used for the blend. It has a more complex palate than their 10-Year, and it isn't as dry on the finish. It has more caramel notes as well as a fruity, crisp finish.
This is a very versatile balsamic; it will work just as well on salads as it will for drizzling and dipping, and it is delicious on strawberries and ice cream.
a little history
It was in 1973 that the Pelloni family opened the “AL CASTELLO” restaurant in the medieval setting of the Piazza della Dama in Modena, Italy. Mario Pelloni was not born a restauranteur, but his previous profession was linked to food. Thanks to his wife's love of cooking and the cooperation of his daughter, Roberta, and son-in-law Marino, he made a success of the venture by offering dishes prepared in the genuine local ways now, unfortunately, on the verge of extinction. The items on the menu are mainly based on the traditional cookery of the Modena region.
Previous generations of the Pelloni family had also been skillful in preparing many preserves, from vegetables pickled in oil or vinegar to fruit in syrup and jams, and finally the liqueurs typical of the Modena tradition.
Last but not least came their production of balsamic vinegar, with output gradually increasing to considerable quantities over the years. Continuous requests from restaurant customers for jars of delicacies to enjoy at home led to the creation of a larger organisation to produce the various products.
And so, in an attractive old building also overlooking the Piazza della Dama, the Pelloni family established LA VECCHIA DISPENSA, with a production area, a showroom, and an exhibition on the upper floors, right up to the attics containing the batteries of barrels for production of balsamic vinegar.
The name is drawn from the peasant lifestyle of bygone days, when every home had a cupboard known as the dispensa used to store foods preserved during the summer months to allow the family to survive the hard winters unscathed. Since 1993, products have been produced and sold by Roberta Pelloni and her husband Marino Tintori, who have introduced new packaging while keeping faith with the traditional production methods, and brought their products to a wider market of appreciative customers.
the making of
Balsamic vinegar takes center stage in the output of LA VECCHIA DISPENSA since the company considers it the resulting jewel of its labors. It is still made in the traditional way, by fermenting the must of Trebbiano grapes in barrels of costly woods - oak, mulberry, chestnut, cherry and juniper - which over the years gradually give the vinegar its inimitable fragrance and flavour.
The process continues with simple but clearly defined procedures that must be carried out in exactly the right sequence, at the best times and in the best places.
However, skilled vinegar makers have their own secrets, handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation. The ageing process gives balsamic vinegar the characteristics that make it truly unique.
usage of balsamics
In gourmet cuisine balsamic vinegar can be used in the most widely varying ways; there are no specific dosages, but rules have built up over more than a century of use. Experience has shown that authentic balsamics should always be the last ingredient added to any dish, except of course when it is used to season salads.
Since it ages constantly, the characteristics of balsamic vinegar in the various ageing phases vary. After a certain number of years it becomes denser, loses fluidity and becomes much richer. At this point it should be treated with devotion, and can even be sipped at the end of a meals as an excellent aid to digestion.
Modena Balsamic Vinegar is a matured obtained from the boiled must of choice grapes grown in the Province of Modena, with the addition of colonies of vinegar bacteria known as "mothers". In the ageing process, the vinegar is transferred between a succession of barrels of different sizes and different types of wood, traditionally used in the zone, combined in specific sets. Balsamic vinegar is dark brown in colour, has a piercing aroma with an attractive acid note, and becomes denser as the years pass. Its characteristics vary through the different stages of the ageing process.