Acetaia San Giacomo, Reggio Emilia, Italy
Balsamic without vinegar & vinegars without water.
Andrea Bezzecchi is more than just the producer of San Giacomo. He's actually the President of the Consortio (Police) for Balsamic in Reggio Emilia, a taster for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and a lawyer.
What is the Consortio? First, there are many Consortios in Italy, for different food products, in different regions. They protect and regulate the integrity, recipe and marketing of sacred items like prosciutto, cheese and balsamic vinegar.
San Giacomo produces a range of exceptional vinegars, including PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) balsamic.
Without getting too deep, "real" balsamic is called "traditionale" and is only sold in 100 ml bottles. There are 2 unique bottle types, one for Reggio Emilia and one for Modena. They are packed in boxes and have a wax seal and are authenticated by the Consortio. We stock the red seal, 12 year. In Reggio Emilia, they produce three "traditionale" - 12 yr, 20 yr and 25 yr (in Modena, they produce two - 12 yr and 25 yr).
Aside from "traditionale" balsamic vinegar, Andrea does younger versions...3 yr, 5 yr and an exceptional 8 yr, as well as a saba which is not aged. He's also well known for his "Basamela"...apple balsamic which goes as wonderfully with pork as it does ice cream.
It's important to note that commodity balsamics add water, and usually starch and color. Real balsamic only has one ingredient: cooked grape must. Also, the age on the label can very misleading. Sometimes the number is 8 or 12, but it actually is referring to the barrel number, not the age (you really have to look for that). Or maybe their balsamic is 40 yr or 100 yr and it costs less. What they are not telling you is that it contains only a small amount of an older balsamic.
Like everything, you really need to read the label.
It's hard to play favorites with any of San Giacomo vinegars, but for everyday use, I adore his raw line.
These vinegars have higher acidity because he doesn't add any water, so as to respect the original recipes and keep authentic "static-surface" vinegar production traditions alive. The flavors of these vinegars are crisp and distinct. You use less. My favorite is Lambrusco, but the Rose (Lambrusco without the skin), comes in a close second.
All of his vinegars are organic.
I had the wonderful pleasure of visiting Acetaia San Giacomo several years ago. Their farmhouse in the Emilian countryside houses the balsamic barrels and their daily vinegar operation. With origins dating back to the mid-1500's, it's simple, rustic and still efficient.
I know you will love these vinegars as much as I do.
Traditional Balsamic - YouTube