Who knew vinegar could be so complicated?so mysterious. Yet there is so much to discover around the production of Balsamic vinegar and how it should be labeled for commercial purposes. It’s an art, that has become a family run business (and passion) for the Crotti family who acquired Il Borgo del Balsamico around fifty years ago. Since then the family has been not only producing prize-worthy balsamic vinegars but also offering tours in the ancient acetaia and since 2018, opened seven guest rooms (with an additional opening this year). This is a special place located on the outskirts of Reggio Emilia, in the countryside of a region renowned for parmigiano reggiano and balsamic vinegar where couples, families or solo travellers in search for inspiration can come and immerse themselves in the most authentic frame (whilst learning a thing or two about this condiment).
Il Borgo del Balsamico offers visits to the ancient acetaia with full explanation on how balsamic vinegar is produced, the different types of balsamic vinegars produced and a tasting of these vinegars that are sold both in the shop (discounted price), online and in retailers. Guests are offered a free visit whereas non-guests, still welcome any time, have to pay €15 and can request a visit here.
The Crotti family acquired ancient barrels passed down from noble families that once lived in the provinces of Reggio Emilia and Modena. These barrels already contained grape must dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, meaning that the quality of this matured dark liquid is exceptional. At Il Borgo del Balsamico, they produce Traditional Balsamic Vinegar (DOP), the most prestigious certified product that only contains one matured ingredient: grape must, aged for a minimum of 12 years. They also produce Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (IGP) that combines concentrated grape must with wine vinegar to speed up the acidification process. This vinegar is typically aged around 3 years in large oak barrels and finally Il Borgo del Balsamico Food Condiment, made with the same ageing process of the DOP but with a drop of white vinegar to balance out the acidity levels. There are three ‘labels’: yellow, orange and red that differ in age and consistency however, as it’s forbidden to add the year of ageing (because it’s never exact) Il Borgo del Balsamico has differentiated each of them according to their culinary use for example the yellow is apt for salads whereas the red, more concentrated, works best with cheese or deserts (yes apparently cream ice cream and balsamic vinegar is a thing).
le dimore del balsamico
The Crotti family have literally opened up their home to guests, with three rooms in the country house, the oldest building in the complex in which the family currently live and four rooms (with one soon opening) in the early nineteenth century terracotta coloured villa. The name behind each room has a meaning, for example the family owned a house in Cortina and therefore some of the furniture has been taken to furnish this particular double room. What we love about it is the story and personal touch that completes this guest house; the decor is modest, vintage and artsy – in fact most rooms in the villa and corridors showcase sketches and photographs of the families previous fashion business. In the morning, breakfast is served either in the country house or, in summer, outdoors and it encompasses a selection of cereal, freshly baked croissants, homemade cakes and, of course, Balsamic Vinegar.