Acetaia Sereni is a family-run balsamic vinegar farm and a leading producer of traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena DOP and IGP. Situated in the beautiful Villabianca hills, in the village of Marano sul Panaro, the estate is surrounded by idyllic countryside, vineyards and olive groves. And, where better to indulge in the full, oozing flavours of Aceto Balsamico than at the heart of its ancestral homeland of Modena?
A date with Acetaia Sereni near Modena
The Sereni family is committed to the high-quality production of Aceto Balsamico, whether the bottle is 8, 12, 25, or (a very prestigious!) 50 years old. You are guaranteed to walk away from a day out at their farm with a whole host of creative tips on serving and savouring Sereni balsamic vinegar… and perhaps a bottle or three to take home.
So, to help you get better acquainted with Acetaia Sereni and their sumptuous products, we sat down with Francesco Sereni to talk about all things balsamic vinegar.
TN&M: So Francesco, as a family-run farm, can you tell us a little bit about the different roles everyone has?
Our family is made up of five people, but only four of us work on the farm as my sister is still studying.
My father, Pier Luigi takes care of the production of balsamic vinegar, from the grapes to bottle; my mother, Elisabetta takes care of administration; my brother, Umberto takes care of hospitality, restaurants, hotels and weddings; I take care of quality control of the products, sales and marketing.
TN&M: What are the most important steps in balsamic vinegar production?
When you produce such a natural product as our balsamic vinegar, which is made only of grapes, the first important step is in the vineyards: the quality of the grape makes all the difference.
The grapes are hand-picked and pressed with a soft press. The juice of the grape is then cooked in our cooking room, using either steam or direct fire.
After the fermentation, we age the balsamic in small wooden barrels. The ageing process is the next really important step. We age the balsamic for at least 12 years, following the traditional method of “rincalzo”, which means moving the product every year from a larger barrel to a smaller one. Every barrel is made of a different wood: oak, chestnut, mulberry, juniper, cherry or ash.
TN&M: Is there a phase in the balsamic vinegar production that is your favourite to witness (and you can’t say taste!)?
For sure, it is the cooking of the grape juice! It’s the most intense period of the year, and it’s the moment when we create the first material which will become balsamic vinegar. At this time, the perfumes are amazing and the entire farm and surroundings smell like grape, caramel, cooked apple, sugar…everywhere.
TN&M: What is it to you personally that makes the AltaModena terroir so special when it comes to producing balsamic vinegar?
AltaModena for me is the high land of Modena. People often unite the whole territory as a single place, but in truth, each different part of the territory makes different products.
In AltaModena the environment is different than in the city; it benefits from lower temperatures and higher thermic excursions. It is windier during the day and night and far from any pollution.
The earth here is clay, rich and sloping, and the flora and fauna are thriving thanks to other cultivation we have on the farm, including our olive groves, hazelnuts and thick woodland.
TN&M: You also produce your wine and olive oil. Can you tell us a little bit about this?
Yes, we produce our own Lambrusco Grasparossa, which is the most popular wine of my province and region near Modena. We produce two kinds of Lambrusco: “Attilio” which comes from the vineyards of Villabianca and “9 Meraviglie” which comes from the vineyards of Castelvetro and is much dryer. They are very good when served fresh from the refrigerator and matched with our local cuisine. We welcome guests to try the wine when they take part in a balsamic vinegar tasting and lunch on our panoramic terrace.
I’m also really proud of being a producer of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, too. For the first time, after more than 100 years, olive oil is produced in Modena, again. We discovered that in the past our land was really popular for the cultivation of olives, however, the cultivations were stopped due to too cold winters.
On our farm, we have planted more than 1400 olive trees, which are growing strong. From these trees, we produce olive oil, taking care of each part of the process, from cultivating the olives to cold pressing and bottling.
“Calancolle”, our bitter and spicy extra-virgin olive oil, is included in two important Italian guides: Gambero Rosso and Slow Food.
TN&M: If you could only choose two foods to pair with your traditional balsamic vinegar, what would they be and why?
First, I would have to say Parmigiano Reggiano, followed closely by risotto.
Parmigiano Reggiano is one of the most important and special cheeses in the world. Thanks to the sweetness and salinity of Parmigiano Reggiano, the flavours of balsamic vinegar balance this perfectly. I grew up eating Parmigiano Reggiano and Balsamico and I can still remember the many times I used to go to the cheesemonger with my grandfather. Before buying, the cheesemonger always made me taste little pieces; the taste of every single piece is still fixed in my mind.
Then there is risotto. I love risotto: I love eating risotto and I love to cook risotto. I can’t eat it without balsamic vinegar. Balsamic always gives me the sweetness I want and the acidity which is necessary for every risotto. It was also the favourite dish of Luciano Pavarotti! And he knew how to eat well!
TN&M: Well, we can’t argue with that! What are the main differences between a younger balsamic and the more premium riserva?
When you age balsamic in wooden barrels, the density increases. However, it is important to be aware that a thick balsamic doesn’t always mean it is aged.
The aged balsamic is more complex, intense and persistent than a young one. In an aged balsamic you can taste the wood and oxidation flavours. In a young balsamic, you can’t taste the complexity of the wood. Where the aged balsamic has a round and smooth taste; the young balsamic is fresher and more aggressive.
TN&M: If you could recommend only one of your products, which would it be and why?
It would have to be our Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP Extravecchio. It’s a 50-year-old balsamic, certified and approved by the Consortium of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. It is very rich, thick, complex, aromatic and most of all, authentic. Plus, it comes in a very special bottle: the Giugiaro design bottle!
TN&M: You run several enriching experiences for guests to get to know the farm, the family and your products, whether a tasting of your traditional balsamic vinegar or even olive oil. Of all the experiences you run for guests at Acetaia Sereni, which would you say is the most popular?
Usually, our visitors have a tour of the Acetaia with the tasting of our different balsamic vinegars, then stop for lunch. The lunch is a great way to inspire our guests and provides an idea of how to best incorporate balsamic vinegar in the kitchen. There are so many creative recipes to try!
Balsamic Vinegar Tastings & Tours at Acetaia Sereni
Acetaia Sereni is a delicious, family-friendly day out from our villas in Tuscany and our luxury holiday rentals near Venice & Verona. They host a range of experiences that will immerse you in the production phases of balsamic vinegar, from vineyard to bottle.
It is a special opportunity to savour the full flavours of balsamic vinegar from the Terazza Sereni, a panoramic glass terrace, with sweeping views across the surrounding countryside. While here you will be led on an intimate and informative tasting journey or even a gourmet lunch.
Find out more about the balsamic vinegar experiences on offer at Acetaia Sereni, whether the Sereni a Tavola: Classic Balsamic Vinegar Tour, Tasting & Lunch or La Gourmerenda: Classic Balsamic Tour & Tasting.