Working in the world of food I have often found incredible and exciting stories like the one I’m about to tell you about. I was selecting a balsamic vinegar producer, when while inspecting a cellar, I saw some strange barrels. They were of wood but with a shape different from the classic one. They looked like old barrels, so I asked for information to the owner. He told me their story, revealing me that a special selection of his precious vinegars is produced in a set of barrels of World War II.
Rare and unusual, they were bought at the end of the 1940s, probably from the Alpine Corps, the military force of the Italian Army created and trained to fight in the Alps mountains. These rare barrels have been preserved and maintained in excellent condition so they now produce excellent quality vinegar.
The wooden casks were handmade with a special shape to be carried on the backs of the mules while walking on the alpine paths.They were particularly robust and handmade with thicker wood (oak or maple) to withstand shocks, climates and conditions of heavy duty.
These barrels were used for the officers’ wine, that was much better than the one for troops and were made in different sizes to fit the neck and croup of the mules. After the end of World War II, during ’50s, new modern machines replaced the mules, changing all the carriage equipment.
Nowadays , thanks to their wise use, from those barrels balsamic vinegars and various small-sized seasonings are born. Of course these delicacies are appreciated by chefs and gourmets thanks to the daily care the vinegar requires. But to achieve these results time ask for many years.
The production is limited, with aging that can be over 30 years old.These barrels are able to produce balsamic vinegar for more than 100 years.
Year after year it is the production of vinegar that consumes them, thining their walls. The cooked must becomes vinegar with a slow controlled fermentation, absorbing the wood’s substances until the comsumption when (we talk about such long periods).
The best vinegars however have an aging of 30/40 years (which is why they cost very much) and it is likely that these barrers will last a few decades before become useless.
Obviously the mules also carried weapons, equipment and more, but these barrels certainly brought wine. Just a thought ….it would be a waste to wreck them. This time the Army helped us to enrich our table, and not to make war. This is a good result !!
Brian G.B. Tonelli on “Good habits & Quality foods”
lifestyle and food blog of the marketplace Italian Food Joy