During my recent food scouting trip to Italy I had the opportunity to visit Compagnia del Montale, the family owned & operated company producing our superb aged balsamic vinegars. It was a great visit, and I learned a lot…but perhaps even more exciting was what they sent me home with.
In addition to their more cost effective “condiment” style balsamics like Oro Nero and Vigna Oro CdM also produces award winning Affinato and Extra Vecchio balsamics. Their extra vecchio has twice won the uber-coveted Spilamberto prize – which is given out each year to the best extra vecchio vinegar. In other words, their vinegar has twice been considered the best balsamic in the world.
I was really excited to taste their most recent winner (they won last year’s award) and see how it was produced, but they also let me taste their private reserve. Extra vecchio’s aged for a minimum of 25 years. Their private reserve, which is NOT for sale, is aged over 70 years.
And let me tell you. It’s something special.
Check out the color and thickness.
No thickeners or artificial colorings, that’s just what happens to grape must when you expertly age it for a really, really, really long time.
Then they coaxed some into a bottle for me to take home. WOW.
I have no idea how many pounds of grapes are represented in my little bottle of their reserve. Balsamic loses about 10% of its volume for every year it ages though evaporation, and it’s been estimated that a cup of 12 year affinato represents something like 70lbs of grapes…so maybe I’ve got a whole field’s worth in a little 3.4oz bottle at home.
It certainly tastes like it.