Some of you have asked about this Botte Piccola in comparison to balsamic vinegars classified as tradizionale. This is a really big subject, but I will give a short explanation here and direct you to an excellent article where you can read all about balsamic classifications.
The short answer is that Cavedoni Botte Piccola is not a tradizionale classified balsamic – and you wouldn’t want it to be, considering that we sell Cavedoni tradizionale wholesale to restaurants and specialty gourmet shops at the equivalent of $24/oz for a base tradizionale (it must be at least 12 years old; the Cavedoni we sell is 15) and $44/oz for an extravecchio tradizionale. (extravecchio = very old, and must be 25 years old; the Cavedoni we sell is 30 years old).
OK, that puts a 100 ml bottle on the retail shelf at $110 for the tradizionale and $210 for the extravecchio tradizionale. Notice I said 100 ml. Ouch! The Botte Piccola is 250 ml. No wonder the article referenced above states that “Tradizionale remains a curiosity for most consumers.” The Cavedoni tradizionale are also DOP certified, but that is another discussion.
Botte Piccola is a true “Aceto Balsamico di Modena” – Balsamic vinegar from Modena which falls into the general classification of industrial – or commercial balsamic. Here is where the consumer can get into real trouble. There production of tradizionale is very strictly controlled – see the details in the article, but not so for commercial balsamic. Even those made in Modena. They run the range from very inexpensive, poor quality stuff to very good high-quality vinegars.
The low end is very yucky tasting stuff made with lots of vinegar and additives like caramel for color, sugar for sweetness and thickening agents. When a waiter pours balsamic into the dish of olive oil on your table, this is what he is using – and by the way, the oil is lousy too, its bad quality masked by the sweet balsamic. Restaurants buy this concoction in plastic jugs for next to nothing and boil it down to use in salad dressing and glazes (yuck!).
The good quality balsamics which are under 12 years old are a completely different animal. They are made with integrity and no additives with the same care as the tradizionale. There are, however, still differences besides age. The most notable are that the initial cooking process (read the article) for the commercial balsamics is done at a higher temperature and for a longer period to give the sugar formation a jumpstart. And, second, the must (this is the pressed grape juice that starts the process – read the article for a good explanation) is combined with vinegar. For the tradizionale no vinegar is used. The key to quality control here is not over cooking, and the percentage of must to vinegar. The good stuff is made with a lot more must than vinegar.
So what is a consumer to do? It’s not easy, but you can start with reliable merchants and sources (like Wine.Woot!) and getting recommendations from trusted sources. Also, armed with thelittle bit of knowledge presented here, the bottle label also tells a lot. Don’t be fooled by how fancy it is.
For instance here is what you will learn on the Botte Piccola label:
- It is a real “Aceto Balsamico di Modena”
- The ingredients list contains only two ingredients: “Cooked grape must and wine vinegar,” and notice the order – very important – more must than vinegar.
- From the neck tag: “Lic Min. API 53 MO.” I don’t know how anyone is supposed to know this, but that is assurance that the producer is an authentic member of the official consortium in Modena.
- Also from the neck tag: Made only from Trebbiano grapes grown in the Modena region.
Just a word on Trebbiano. You probably know that this is a Spanish varietal. The grapes used in the production on balsamic are not from Spain. At some point long ago, I don’t know when, they were planted in the area around Modena. They are well suited to balsamic production because of their high sugar content. Botte Piccola
is made only from Trebbiano, but traditionally Lambrusco is also used.
One last thing, if you read the article referenced above, you will see that tradizionale
is aged in as many as five different types of wood barrels. Botte Piccola
is aged only in oak, because that is what Paolo Cavedoni chooses to use for this product.
Sorry for the long post – so much for the “short answer!” Well, if you read all the way down here there is a bonus: if you are truly interested in a true tradizionale
we will sell up to ten bottles of DOP 15 year Cavedoni to Wooters for $80 – our best wholesale price. Seems crazy & outrageous but it is a bargain for the aficionado. It is not on our website, so you will need to send us an email to email@example.com
, and only the first 10 can be honored because that is all we can spare from our inventory.
Enjoy the Vinegar!