To be Italian is to have a special relationship with food. So when Andrea Bezzechi, who grew up in the small Reggio Emilia town of Novellara, completed his law degree, he didn’t go into practicing law. Instead, he joined the family business, Antica Acetaia San Giacomo, and settled down to make…vinegar. Balsamic vinegar, to be precise. Smooth, rich and sweet, Bezzechi's balsamic vinegar is to regular old Heinz white what Champagne is to Coca Cola.
And, as with Champagne and the Champagne region of France, only vinegar made in Modena and Reggio Emilia can rightfully be called Traditional Balsamic. Unlike ordinary vinegar, which is literally sour wine (from the French vin aigre), Traditional Balsamic is made by cooking grapes down to one third their volume before they ferment. The resulting concentrated essence is then poured into a series of small barrels made of the wood from chestnut, cherry, juniper, oak, ash and mulberry trees, each of which impart their own flavor and aroma to the maturing juice. After many years (the red label is aged at least 12 years, the silver label about 25 years and the gold label upwards of 50 years), the vinegar is submitted to a panel of experts—officially known as the Consorzio fra Produttori di Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia—for an independent blind taste test to ensure that it’s good enough to earn the name Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale ("Traditional Balsamic Vinegar"), which is worlds away from the mass-produced, commercial grade balsamic found on most supermarket shelves. Then, and only then, is it graded and bottled.
We’re offering three varieties of Antica Acetaia San Giacomo’s mind-blowing condiments. Gold Seal is the finest vinegar the family produces, so complex and sweet that it’s never—shudder—used as a dressing but instead savored in tiny glasses at the end of a meal as an accompaniment to cheese and fruit. Silver Seal has a bit more of bite and is best used in pasta and rice dishes or in sauces. Red Seal is the most acidic of the three (though compared to what you’ll find at your local supermarket, it’s positively voluptuous) and is intended to be eaten with salads and crudités. Buon appetito!
Curated by Alessandro Valenti, Senior VP of Retail at Giorgio Armani.