Discover how Guerzoni crafts balsamic vinegar in harmony with nature
You've probably heard of the canary in the coal mine, which served as a safety test for miners back in the day. If the canary got sick, it was a sign the air quality was poor and the miners should evacuate. Well, at Acetaia Guerzoni in Modena, a family farm that produces some of the country’s best balsamic and other vinegars, they have roses in the grape vines. At the end of every row of vines is a rose bush, planted there to monitor the health of the land. Sensitive roses will display signs of pest infestation, soil imbalance, or other problems before grapes do; by watching the roses, they are able to better protect their grapes.
That's just one of the ways this family farm has incorporated the holistic philosophy of biodynamic farming into the traditional Italian method for making balsamic. The only certified biodynamic and organic vinegar maker in the world, Guerzoni has been following this century-old practice for decades to help them make delicious balsamic vinegar while protecting the land.
In the early 1980s, husband-and-wife team Felice and Irida Guerzoni were concerned about the effects of pollution in the air and rivers around their family’s farm in the lowlands of the province of Modena, in northern Emilia-Romagna. Since organic agriculture as we know it had yet to take root in Europe, they turned to biodynamic farming, a holistic, natural method invented in the 1920s in Germany. The biodynamic philosophy of treating farmland as one living organism, where the foods that grow are nourished by all of the natural elements there—the soil, the insects and animals, and all the plant life—spoke to the Guerzonis, and they embraced it without looking back. Today, their son Lorenzo leads the business just as his parents did.
Biodynamic principles require Lorenzo to plant and tend the land according to the phases of the moon—yes, the plants follow astrology! They fertilize using only cow manure and solutions of quartz or other natural substances. Walking on the Guerzoni land is very different from visiting many farms: bees buzz about happily, wild plants are allowed to grow in the same space as the vines, and the whole farm exudes a sense of peaceful abundance.
And when it’s time to turn those grapes into vinegar, the process sticks to a different set of traditions: the ancient methods of producing balsamic that have been practiced for centuries in this Italian province. Guerzoni makes DOP-certified balsamics, meaning they follow the strictest guidelines that include only using grapes grown in the province, using no additives or flavor-enhancing ingredients, and aging the precious vinegar naturally for at least 12 years in wooden barrels. The result is a thick, luscious balsamic that sings with the natural flavor of the land, the air, and the grapes in this precious corner of northern Italy.
And the roses? They're doing great.