We went on a vinegar tour.
Of course we did.
For Sartre, a week without a museum is like a bowl of salad. He can't see the point. Even on holiday we have to "improve our brains."
So along we went.
It was a strangely touching tour. Guided by the wife of the master vinegar maker in their private home on the outskirts of Modena, Giovanna won her audience over and no mistake.
Once upon a time, their villa must have been gloriously located in Modenese fields and vineyards. Today, it's crammed in at the side of a busy overpass, a huge and ceaselessly busy McDonalds and a tyre fitters. Nonetheless, the quiet magic of devoting your life to making "black gold" (genuine balsamic vinegar) and the charming manner of the family sets to work on you.
Balsamic vinegar is stored in the attic of a house. It's a patient profession, in which you wait a minimum of five years for the first batch, which basically gets decanted down a row of ever decreasing barrels. Then, to "reward" you for your artisanal dedication, the frankly pernickety-sounding Modenese authorities inspect and taste, and make you buy a certain type of bottle to put it in.
But by God, I salute Giovanna and her family's vinegary aptitude, because the results are quite special. Sweet and complex enough to serve as a palate cleanser between courses of a meal, as well as with parmesan and all the usual serving suggestions, her range of 12 and 25 year old vinegars wowed the group. (Terribly pretentious idea for a dinner party, that...To be honest, I'm going to find myself doing it).
The bottle tip was illuminating - the bottom picture in the next three is the only bottle shape that proper authentic balsamic vinegar will ever come in. Any other bottle shape simply isn't the stuff.
To expand upon the touching comment I made upfront here's an example. The husband and wife team named their most prestigious batch of vinegar after their only daughter Carlotta. That's because balsamic vinegar doubled as a dowry historically, and the makers nowadays have upheld the tradition.
If further proof were needed of this family's gastronomic credentials, the aforementioned Carlotta is apparently in nearby Emilia Romagna studying to be a master in Parmesan. Rock. On.
Sartre was as happy as Darwin in his potting shed. Witness him below trying to get to top of the class.