What is the Rincalzo (reinforcement)?

In Modena and its province, if you talk about Rincalzo, you are certainly talking about Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP.

Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP

But for those who are not from Modena, the term rincalzo means something else, it has its original meaning of the Italian language, without any reference to Balsamic Vinegar!

For us in Modena, the Rincalzo is something else. It could be described as the activity that involves annual “topping up and transfering“, and refers to the aging method of the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, preserved in attics for centuries.

The aging of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO does not take place in a single barrel, as happens for the aging of wine or Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP.

Aging takes place in a series of casks, in graduated measure, from a small cask, which can also contain only 3/5 litres, up to a larger cask, which on average contains 100/130 litres. In the middle, many barrels in increasing size, and of different woods. This series of barrels, whose number can usually vary from a minimum of 3 up to even 10/12 barrels, in Modena is called Battery of Balsamic Vinegar, a battery of barrels, like the battery of pots, when you have all the measurements , from the small one to the big one!

The battery is the aging set for Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. To age the vinegar well, the battery must be placed in an attic without the presence of heating or air conditioning in the various seasons. The temperature must be the typical Emilian one, very hot in summer, very cold in winter.

This is because with the high summer temperatures the product evaporates, acquiring density; in winter the suspended particles are decanted on the bottom of the barrel, therefore the product is “filtered”, as well as concentrating its flavours. Spring and autumn, with their mild temperatures, are necessary for the fermentation of the cooked must.

Every summer the liquid inside the barrels decreases in quantity, becomes concentrated, and over the years sweetness and acidity blend together, finding what after at least 25 years will be a perfect balance!

But this means, concretely, that every summer the producer loses part of his product from the barrels due to evaporation.

Here come the famous reinforcements!

Every year, once a year, in the middle of winter, when it is very cold in Modena and we usually say that vinegar is “sleeping”, the master of vinegar approaches the smallest barrel of each battery, the number one, with in hand a typical tiravino (called the “sage”). He will check how much vinegar has evaporated from the first barrel and will fill up that loss with the product present in the second barrel, the slightly larger one next to it.

Subsequently, cask number two must also be topped up, because no cask must ever be completely emptied over the years. The missing quantity will be topped up in the second barrel, with the product present in the third barrel. And so on, the fourth will support the third, the fifth will support the fourth. The largest barrel in the row, also known as the Madre, will be topped up with the acetified cooked must, i.e. the young vinegar, which came ready that same year inside the Abbess.

It’s a never-ending process, lasting years, sometimes centuries.

You never stop topping up, and the more time passes, the better the bittersweet balance achieved by the vinegar will be, as well as increasing the density of the product.

After 12 reinforcements, the product can be defined as “Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP“. After at least 25 reinforcements, we can add the adjective “Extravecchio“.

This makes you understand very well how much dedication and passion is behind the production of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. You cannot leave the barrels to themselves, you need to take care of them, and take care of the product, every year, for life!

Here in Acetaia Sereni we are about to start filling our 1500 barrels.

Come and visit us if you want to see our precious balsamic vinegar batteries up close.

To book your visit to Acetaia Sereni click HERE!