When making balsamic vinegar, grapes are a must . . . get it? . . . must. Nothing? Nothing? Anything? Okay, if you’re not familiar with the reference, “must” is what becomes of whole grapes after they are crushed and aged to make balsamic vinegar (also known as balsamic dressing) . . . wait a minute, why do they call crushed grapes, “must?” Were they going to call it “mustard” and halfway through the naming process realized that name was already taken and decided just to stick with what they had? The truth is, nobody knows*. But we do know what it is.
“Must” comprises whole pressed grapes, including skin, seeds, and stems, because lazy. Okay, that was harsh. Peeling a grape is not fun . . . well, one or two, maybe, but enough to fill a bottle gets rather tedious. Moving on. The grapes are soft-pressed to avoid excess polyphenols in the peel, seeds, and stalks, which delay the acetification process and potentially can add bitterness. To avoid fermentation, the must is cooked within 24 hours in open-top stainless steel boilers over direct fire. Aging is done in batteries of open wooden barrels decreasing in size, each made of a different type of wood (oak, ash, juniper, mulberry, chestnut, etc.) and placed in attics for heating during the summer, and cooling in the winter, which are optimal conditions for aging (okay, we don’t have cold summers and hot winters—well not yet, but give global warming a chance). During the aging process, the balsamic vinegar is moved from barrel to barrel to acquire the different essences of the woods. Every year, the balsamic vinegar is taste-tested and visually evaluated for color.
It’s important to note that like hay, it’s important to make must while the sun shines. Now our only problem is to come up with a clever category for things made out of must. Hey, I got it . . . “Must Never Sleeps.” BAM! Okay, it does sleep, that’s what aging is, but you’ve got to admit that was a really good one, and we’re keeping it. Zeno and Burnesto BoShay proudly invite you to peruse our big set of balsamics.
— Burnesto BoShay
* Okay, we do know. It comes from the Latin, Vinum mustum, which means “young wine.”