Aceto balsamico is one of the most widely used ingredients from the region of Reggio Emilia. It tastes sweet and tart. It goes well with the cheese most identified with Italy, namely the wonderfully grainy Parmigiano Reggiano.
Balsamic vinegar is created by simmering the freshly pressed juices and skins of locally grown grapes such as Trebbiano, Sangiovese and Lambrusco. The natural sugars in the grapes darken and thicken after undergoing an initial cooking process, thus becoming slightly caramelized. The liquid obtained slowly ferments, and is mellowed in casks made of the wood of chestnut, oak and cherry trees. For a period of years this darkish brown juice is moved from one wooden barrel to another.
Most experts agree that a minimum of three years is necessary to create that which is recognized as balsamic vinegar. The traditional vinegars of Modena and Reggio Emilia may be aged up to 25 years. They are reverently called a nectar, or at the very least a seasoning or condiment. An aged balsamic is treated like a perfume from heaven.