Monday, April 19, 2010

Modena’s Balsamic Vinegar- One of the World’s Sexiest Condiments

Few things say Modena, in Italy’s northern Emilia Romagna region more proudly and deliciously than a fine Aceto Balsamico (balsamic vinegar). And few have been making it for as long or as well as the Giusti family at the Gran Deposito Aceto Balsamico di Modena Giuseppe Giusti. A mouthful? Yes, but it sounds as seductive as it tastes.

Bon Vivants from across Canada taking a bite out of The Flavours of Tuscany tour will be guided through the gran deposito by the charming Claudio Stefani, a 17th generation descendant of Giuseppe Giusti himself. In fact, his family is credited with being the first to record the balsamic vinegar recipe in history and it doesn’t hurt that these vinegars are also listed in the book “101 Things to Buy Before You Die” as a must-try.

Deep burgundy in colour, luscious and infinitely complex, Giusti balsamic vinegars are like a rare, edible historical artifact that are meant to be savoured like a fine wine. Using generations-old barrels, the vinegars start out as grape must that is aged and reduced over years in the family’s beautifully appointed facility in Modena. Take a step back in time as you are guided by Claudio himself into the prized cellars where “Il Profumato” (the perfumed one), the Giusti White Label “Il Classico” or my favourite, the 10 year old “Il Denso” – which as its name suggests is sweet, thick, and sexy- are all created. A sampling of all five “Historical Collection” balsamic vinegars as well as two of the family’s “Traditional Balsamic Vinegars” will be lead by Claudio on site.

For the culinary curator, there’s the prized “Scrigno – Giusti Complete Collection” containing all five Giusti balsamic vinegars. The collection came to be as a special request from the late tenor Luciano Pavarotti. He asked for a unique prize that could be donated for a Red Cross charity auction in December 4th 2006 in Modena. The vinegar set sold for a handsome € 1100. Today, you can pick up a set of your own for a more moderate €180.

And since the Flavours of Tuscany tour is about giving travelers an intimate taste of the culinary landscape in that part of Italy, the group will head over to the Locanda delle Quattro Stagioni for a bespoke lunch featuring Giusti’s various balsamic vinegars. There’s nothing quite like a well-made ravioli drizzled with a thick and deeply intense balsamic vinegar to elevate a dish to Mount Vesuvius proportions. And this is just a taste of things to come.

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