A New Discovery
After living in Polinago for almost eight years, there still remain new discoveries to be made. For a small town I never cease to be amazed with the number of different things which one doesn't necessarily know about, and certainly aren't widely advertised.The other day was a case in point. Last year as I was helping on the refreshment stand for the annual Panoramic Trail Fun Run, one of the other volunteers whom I had seen and nodded to over the years, approached me and asked if I would like to visit his family Balsameri (a distillery for making balsamic vinegar) in Gombola. Over time we have driven through Gombola, part of the Territory of Polinago, at least several times a month and I had never seen any evidence whatsoever, or heard about a balsameria located there.
Due to one thing and another, David and I finally had the opportunity to take up William Facchini's invitation and yesterday afternoon we paid a visit. It was obvious why we had never seen it as the building is located down a driveway, between a couple of apartment buildings. We were blown away with the delightful, private location. William's son Marco met us and as we walked down, we saw tucked away out of sight from the road, a grassed area with a small wooden chalet next to a larger building and we could hear the loud roar of the river running below. As we walked into the building we were amazed to enter a large, light filled open room with row upon row of wooden barrels of varying sizes holding balsamic vinegar.
William and Marco explained that this is the private family collection of Aceto Balsamico di Modena Tradizionale for which the Province of Modena is famous, and that his wife's uncle Egisto Veratti, started production in 1950. In the past it was quite the done thing for families to create their own balsamic vinegar and as it aged over the years it was passed down within the family and regarded as a prestigious part of their inheritance.
Aceto Balsamico Tradizional di Modena is made using exclusively cooked grape must which is then aged in barrels usually made from oak and an amount moved from barrel to barrel once a year as matures and thickens. William
sources the grapes each September from the area of Formigine, close to Modena. The grapes are then slowly cooked in a large metal container and then decanted into the largest barrels. Prior to that about a 1/4 of the amount which has matured in the smallest barrel is decanted for bottling. A similar amount from the barrel the next size up, is decanted and placed in the smaller barrel and so on until the largest barrel, from which approximately a 1/3 is removed. Then the cooked grape must produced is placed into the largest barrels.
The usual Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP or DOP also use concentrated grape must which is mixed with natural wine vinegar and the maturation time is much shorter than the time needed to produce the Acteto Balsamico Tradizionale and is easier to produce on a more industrial scale. Hence the difference in price between the two. Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale should be added to hot food or as a condiment on meat, fish, cheese, like Parmigiano Reggiano, raw or cooked vegetables, fruit or desserts. Alternatively the other Balsamico can be used when cooking sauces or stir fried vegetables or pasta dishes.
The most exciting moment of the visit was when we were each offered a small plastic spoon and invited to dip it directly into the smallest barrel in the row and have a taste test. William warned us that there would be and explosion in our mouths of sweet and sour flavours which then slowly dimmed on the palate. As I slowly put the viscous brown liquid in my mouth, his description was not wrong! I have tasted a variety of balsamic vinegars since being here, but this was amazing! I felt the explosion which not only burst into my mouth but also up into my nose and ears. It was delicious! I was literally blown away.
We were not surprised to learn that in 2017 the Veratti Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale came second in the Paglio Citta di Sassuolo, which is a competition for the best local Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale. What was even better to learn is that we are able to bring any of our guests visiting Polinago to see and taste for themselves and to have an opportunity to buy this delicious and unique, local product.
So anyone planning to come and visit Cherry House in future, we will be pleased to arrange a visit to see and taste this truly local product for which the Province of Modena is famous the world over. The perfect combination is a few drops of 25 year old Balsamic Vinegar Tradizionale di Modena sprinkled over a delicious 36 month old Parmigiano Reggiano from the Caseficio Santa Maria here in Polinago. The two make for particularly distinctive and delicious souvenirs to take home after visiting this very special part of the world.
Life in Polinago is just the best!