RATING SYSTEM FOR
BALSAMIC VINEGAR OF MODENA
THE ONE- TO FOUR-leaf
rating is issued by
Association), a third-party association. The
rating guarantees that
each bottle of balsamic
meets the standards of
quality for each classification.
One leaf: Suggested
for salad dressings and everyday use. Light flavor,
slightly acidic and a more pronounced vinegar
Two leaves: Good for marinades, barbecuing
and steamed vegetables. More balsamic sweetness and less added-vinegar flavor.
Three leaves: Suggested for roasted meats,
fish and warm sauces. Enjoy drizzled directly
onto food. Sweeter and smoother than one-and two-leaf balsamics.
Four leaves: Great for special recipes, fresh
fruits, ice cream or drizzled over Parmesan
cheese. Sweet, superb taste. (Because the
Kirkland Signature balsamic is such a great
value, even at four leaves, it’s great for any use,
from salads to pouring over a finished meal).—LB
ITALY IS KNOWN for many things, including art, fashion, wine and food. That last
category also includes delectable Kirkland
Signature™ Aged Balsamic Vinegar of
Modena, with a tangy aroma and a sweet yet
Luca Bombarda, Costco member and
director of sales for Acetum, the supplier
of Kirkland Signature aged balsamic, spent
some time educating me on this liquid
Balsamic vinegar has been around for
centuries. The first reference to balsamic
vinegar occurred in ;;;;, in the regions of
Modena and Reggio, Italy.
In modern times, balsamic production
takes place each September in the Modena
area of north-central Italy. Red and white
grapes are harvested and then pressed. This
pressed, unfermented juice, called “must,”
is simmered for hours in copper cauldrons
over an open fire, causing the water to evaporate and the must to intensify in flavor,
resulting in a syrup.
Throughout the aging process, the balsamic is transferred to smaller and smaller
wood barrels, and is permeated with flavor
from these woods. Approved woods for
aging balsamic are oak, cherry, chestnut,
mulberry, acacia, juniper and ash.
Types of balsamic
The most typical type of balsamic avail-
able in grocery stores is Balsamic Vinegar
of Modena IGP. Balsamic vinegar of Modena
IGP is aged at least ;; days, per Italian law,
and flavors and caramel color may be added.
Millions of liters of this type of balsamic
are produced every year.
Kirkland Signature balsamic has been
aged at least three years, setting it apart
from the ;;-day commercial types in both
quality and value, and no flavorings or caramel color are added. While most retail
balsamic receives a one- to two-leaf rating
(see graphic), Kirkland Signature balsamic
of Modena consistently rates four leaves,
making it one of the highest-quality vinegars on the market.
There is also a category called Traditional
Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP.
Traditional balsamic is produced in much
smaller amounts—about ;,;;; liters per year.
Traditional balsamic is aged at least ;; years,
cannot contain any additives and can only
be sold in ;-ounce bottles, which typically
retail for anywhere from ;;; to ;;;;. (
Twelve-and ;;-year balsamic can be found on Costco.
com for ;;; and ;;;;, respectively.)
The right partner
Costco has partnered with Acetum, a
Modena-based company with a long tradition of making fine balsamic vinegar, to
make the Kirkland Signature product. “We
chose to partner with Acetum in ;;;;
because of its commitment to preserving the
authenticity and heritage of balsamic vinegar,” says Leanne Bender, a Costco buyer.
“Acetum uses traditional methods—aging
the vinegar in barrels, monitoring the flavor
and quality as it moves from barrel to barrel—with dedication to quality at every step.
They truly have a passion for balsamic vinegar, and that comes across in the end result.”
Acetum’s history spans five generations, beginning with farmer Giuseppe
Bombarda, who started his balsamic business in the late ;;;;s. He originally made
very small batches of aceto buono (good
vinegar) balsamic to give away. Over time,
the popularity of and demand for his balsamic grew, and eventually turned it into
the large business it is today.
Acetum remains a family-owned business. “We are vertically integrated, so we
have control of the whole supply chain, from
the vineyards and grapes through to the
finished product,” says Luca Bombarda, the
youngest of the brothers who run the
Acetum company, along with Andrea, Cinzia
and Marco. Marco and company president
BUYING SMAR T
Freelance writer Laura
Bode ;lls this month’s
consumer reporter slot
with this behind-the-scenes
look at a Costco program.
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