Working just off the historic square in the center of the old town of Castelvetro, southwest of Modena, Italy, Roberta Pelloni and her husband Marino Tintori make a range of great vinegars. Although Americans tend to gravitate toward sweet caramel-flavored balsamics, Marino is quick to emphasize that "the key to great Balsamico is balance.” Exaggerating sweetness is an easy way to enhance appeal and reduce the need for proper blending and aging. You might not notice it at first, but after many uses overly sweet balsamics get kind of dull. Not so with those from the Tintoris. We've been selling them for over a decade, and they have a legion of followers who return to them again and again.
Roberta and Marino have bottled only a very small amount of this special non-tradizionale vinegar. Dense and intense, it coats the interior of the bottle like molasses. The long-lasting taste will leave you deep in reflection; a thimbleful adds complex, sweet depth to sauces or dressings. With much of the flavor of balsamics that cost twice as much, it's a great deal for a great vinegar.
Buy a bottle and save it for special occasions. It will last nearly forever.
Zingerman's Food Tours is visiting Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna in October, 2013. Join us for a behind-the-scenes insiders' journey to traditional food makers like this.
The laws concerning balsamic vinegar have recently changed. Instead of the age, producers must now print the density of the vinegar on the label. The higher the density, the older the vinegar. The 30 year is now noted by its density: 1.35.