No one knows how long the acetaie (vinegar cellar) has been an everyday part of life in Modena, but documents show it goes back at least 1000 years. Many of these properties were handed down through families, and the resulting vinegar was prized for its medicinal and therapeutic qualities as well as its complex taste. Traditionally, the cellars weren’t underground, but in the attic. There the temperatures would swing between the seasons, giving the vinegar a range of flavours as it evaporated and rested.
Vinegar makers of years gone by would still recognise the Manicardi process today – cooked grape must is reduced, concentrating the sugars, and then fermented, producing alcohol. After being transferred into large casks, the acetobacteria start the process of turning the alcohol into vinegar. The vinegar is then put through smaller and smaller casks to evaporate liquid and concentrate the flavours. The barrels are arranged by size and type of wood, including chestnut, oak, mulberry, cherry and juniper. Long maturing times mean the liquid absorbs a range of flavours as it ages. Try two different products and you’ll be amazed at the differences between them.
From the very beginning, Manicardi have combined these traditional practices with the latest technologies to get the most out of their products. They believe every single step of the production process is important – a single mistake could ruin the complex final flavour and aroma. Now the second generation of the family is managing the estate. Maria Livia Manicardi is proud of the family tradition, and is committed to continuing that dedication to quality. She explains: ‘I am very proud to be able to transmit, together with my family, a sense of continuity and, above all, a deep love for our origins.