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Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Reggio Emilia, Italy

As is true with many culinary products, quality, taste, appearance and aroma varies significantly from one balsamic vinegar to the next. Although there are numerous choices for aged balsamic vinegar in most gourmet food shops, there are very few options that compare to the 12 – 25+ year barrel aged, Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Reggio Emilia. These traditional balsamic vinegars, which have only recently become available, are made only from grapes, with no additives. A genuine work of culinary art, these luxurious elixirs will add a distinctive personality to any dish.

The Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Reggio Emilia has been awarded the right to be called Traditional (tradizionale) Balsamic Vinegar from Reggio Emilia by a panel of five master tasters, and their Designation of Protected Origin (D.O.P.) authenticity is safeguarded by the Consortium of Producers of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Reggio Emilia.  The master tasters also determine which of the three categories the vinegar belongs to: Gold (Oro), Silver (Argento), or Crimson (Aragosta).  Each Traditional Balsamic Vinegar is aged for a minimum of 12 years and up to 50 years.  Different types of wood barrels (including chestnut, cherry, mulberry, juniper and oak – some dating back to the 1800’s) lend its own special note to the vinegar during the long aging process. Up to 20 different barrels can be used, in gradually decreasing sizes, giving stability and intensity to the aroma of the Balsamic Vinegar.

Considered an important culinary condiment, just a few droplets of these Traditional Balsamic Vinegars are capable of turning a slice of Parma ham, a sliver of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, a risotto, pasta, fruit dessert, or any other dish into a memorable sensation.  When paired with foie gras or fresh truffles, you can expect your taste buds to be absolutely delighted!

The three types of  Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Reggio Emilia, Gold (Oro), Silver (Argento) and Crimson (Aragosta) are noticeably different and each vinegar lends itself to unique culinary uses.

Gold Label Traditional Balsamic Vinegar is used almost exclusively at the end of a meal.  It is an extraordinary and complex product, with rich and harmonious fragrances which tend more to the sweet than to the sour, with a noble, persuasive and persistent structure. It is suitable for strong, well-flavoured and spicy cheeses, for fruit salads with fruits of the forest, strawberries or cherries, for custard cream and ice-cream, or for panettone. To experience the full complexity of its intense combination of perfumes and scents, try sipping it from a spoon or from a tiny glass at the end of a meal.

The intense and rich perfume of the Silver Label has a distinct lean towards sweetness and is a marvelous addition to mayonnaise and sauces for broiled meats or fish. It is perfect for cold pasta or rice salads and with foie gras. It is also ideal with fully-flavored mature cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano. As a cooking ingredient, it is a tasty companion for filet steaks and is a precious ally when making risottos, especially those made with vegetables or scampi.

Light years away from industrial balsamic vinegars, the Crimson Label Traditional Balsamic Vinegar has a delicate, understated perfume and a pleasantly intense acidity. The most “vinegary” of the three Traditional Balsamic Vinegars, the Crimson Label is perfect straight from the bottle to dress salads or vegetables. It is the ideal choice for carpaccio and marinades. It can be warmed to enhance the flavor of fish or game and used in sauces. Add Crimson Label Balsamic Vinegar as a final touch to fish, crustaceans, lamb chops, chicken breasts and rare red meats. Create a delicious sauce for ravioli by blending warmed Crimson Label Traditional Balsamic Vinegar with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Although there are endless possibilities for enhancing your meals with each of the three types of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, for the best results, there are some general rules that should be followed.  First, do not use Traditional Balsamic Vinegar in recipes that require long, slow cooking.  If the balsamic vinegar is to be used in hot preparations it is best to add the vinegar only in the last few seconds of the cooking process (Crimson Label is recommended for cooking).  Secondly, it’s best to give the vinegar center stage.  Don’t use Traditional Balsamic Vinegar with strong foods, nullifying the rich perfume and extraordinary taste of this marvelous condiment.  The last suggestion is to use Traditional Balsamic Vinegar sparingly.  Only a few drops are needed to transform a dish; enhancing its flavors, not covering them.

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