Founded in 1871 in Magreta di Formigne, a few miles north of the town of Modena, the Acetaia Leonardi is run by Giovanni Leonardi and his son, Francesco. The Leonardi's respect for tradition, their skill and their dedication to the art of aceto balsamico result in vinegars consistently rated outstanding within the consortium. Authentic traditional balsamic vinegar is made from boiled grape must that undergoes natural fermentation and slow acetification, followed by a long aging process in wood casks. Balsamic starts with cooking the juice of the white Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes--the must--over an open wood fire. As the must cooks down, the sugar level rises as the water evaporates and the flavor intensifies. The fermentation begins when previously aged balsamic vinegar is added to the must.
As times goes by, and according to the taste and palate of individual producers such as Giovanni Leonardi, the fermenting liquid is transferred to progressively smaller barrels. This sequence of barrels of different sizes and woods, such as oak, walnut, ash, acacia, chestnut, mulberry, etc., is known as a "batteria." A batteria could consist of as few as three barrels and as many as ten. Part of each barrels contents - but never all of it - is decanted to the next smaller barrel, again based on the judgment of the producer. For years the vinegar goes through what is called maturation in the middle part of batteria, then enters the aging phase in the last few barrels. For the most traditional balsamic, Tradizionale, the ultimate step is decantation into the smallest barrel where it rests and matures.
Cherry-wood Balsamic 20-year:
This special, 20 year-old vinegar is aged solely in cherry-wood barrels, giving it a wonderfully subtle cherry flavor that lingers on the tongue. This vinegar can be used as a syrup on top of berries or ice cream, as well as a topping for panna cotta. While it is sweet, it could also be used as a sauce for a pork loin.