La Vecchia Dispensa Modena, Italy

When we went to Italy in search of a top balsamic producer, we were looking for a family-run enterprise with almost religious devotion to the eventual product and a true sense of history and place. In that way, we would be assured that the traditional balsamico we bring to you is worthy of its designation. In the Pelloni family of Modena, we reached that goal. They began with the Al Castello restaurant at Castelvetro, Modena, located at the medieval Piazza della Dama. Fueled by a great love of cooking and culture, the Pellonis set about preserving the genuine cooking of the local region, now virtually extinct. Over the years, constant requests from diners for their bottled delicacies led to the establishment of La Vecchia Dispensa, a name drawn from the peasant lifestyle of antiquity. Strictly made in the traditional way, this balsamico begins with the pressed must of Trebbiano grapes, then is aged in barrels of costly woods (oak, mulberry, chestnut, cherry and juniper). Over the years, each imparts its own distinct character, gradually giving the vinegar its unique fragrance and flavor. Of course, as it continues to age, this labor of love darkens and thickens. The flavor of a seasoned 40 year old is complex and mellow compared to the relatively fruity boldness of a 10-year-old (Sounds like my life story!) The explosion of flavor and warmth in a 100-year-old is almost beyond description. Experience over the centuries has shown that balsamic vinegar should always be the last ingredient added to any dish, except when used to dress salads,says proprietor Roberta Pelloni. At over 20 years of age, it becomes denser, its fragrance and flavor are enriched and it can be appreciated to the fullest on flakes of Parmesan cheese, fresh strawberries or ice cream. Italians will simply sip it at the end of meal, both as a digestive and a pure delight.