If you’d like to experience DOP balsamic vinegar, known as the black gold of Modena, there’s no better way than to take a deep dive into one of the local family producers, or acetaia as they’re known in Italy: Acetaia Malagoli Daniele.
Sofia Malagoli has taken the family acetaia to a whole new level and her marketing savvy and outgoing personality have helped the Acetaia Malagoli Daniele (named after Sofia’s father) become one of the largest acetaie in the Modena area with roughly 800 barrels.
Today Sofia and I chatted all about her family's DOP balsamic vinegar business, how Sofia has marketed this business, the recently published Black Gold of Modena book and all the other entrepreneurial endeavors Sofia is delving into.
About Sofia Malagoli
From when Sofia was a little girl she helped out in her mother's family hotel and had the opportunity to spend time with people with varied backgrounds and nationalities. When it came time to attend university Sofia followed her dad’s path and studied civil engineering. She quickly realized this was not the right path for her and decided instead to dedicate herself to the family DOP balsamic vinegar business and to turn it into a profitable enterprise rather than what was up until then closer to a family hobby.
Her endeavors paid off and Sofia built up a strong network of clients from all over the world, especially the United States. At the Milan Expo in 2015 Sofia promoted the family DOP balsamic vinegar. She attended the 2017 Wine and Gourmet Exhibition in Japan and traveled to Luxembourg to explain to students the difference between DOP balsamic vinegar and other balsamic vinegar products on the market.
You can find Sofia on her website and on Instagram.
A battery of DOP balsamic vinegar barrels can be made up of anywhere from 5 to 8 barrels. The barrel wood imparts something unique to the DOP balsamic vinegar: for example chestnut gives the vinegar its dark color, cherry imparts a vanilla flavor.
Each battery of barrels is lined up, laying sideways, and range in size from roughly 40 to 50 liters on down to the smallest of 5 to 10 liters. Each year cooked grape must is added to the largest barrel and a bit of vinegar is transferred from the largest to the next smallest barrel. This process is repeated from larger barrel to the next smallest on down to the smallest barrel of all.
Each year some vinegar from the smallest barrel is taken out and bottled to continue ageing. DOP balsamic vinegar must age for a minimum of 12 years, and often up to 20, 40 or more years.
The oldest Malagoli family barrels date to the 18th century. Sofia’s father Daniele added additional barrels to the family battery after his father passed away and he took over the management of the acetaia.
Gifting a battery of DOP balsamic vinegar
In the Modena area a battery of balsamic vinegar barrels is a prized possession and a special gift, often a part of a daughter's dowery. Daniele has two daughters, Sofia and her younger sister Taisia, so Daniele has created two identical batteries, one for each daughter.
The Black Gold of Modena book
Just six months ago the Modena publisher, Artioli, published a book on DOP balsamic vinegar: L’Oro Nero di Modena (The Black Gold of Modena). The book preface was written by Massimo Bottura, a Modena native and renowned worldwide chef. The book is written in both Italian and English and describes the basics of what this incredible DOP balsamic vinegar product actually is along with the intricacies of how it’s made. Each page of text is accompanied by an exquisite photograph that helps tell the story of DOP balsamic vinegar. This was Sofia's passion project and a wonderful way to share the magic of DOP balsamic vinegar.
DOP balsamic vinegar recipes
The book is also full of some wonderful DOP balsamic vinegar recipes, each accompanied by a photo of the recipe. Although most of the recipes are Italian Sofia made a point of including some international recipes as well: two from the United States and one from Japan. There are a total of 18 recipes and several of them are delicious cocktail recipes.
A few of the DOP balsamic vinegars you can buy online in addition to Acetaia Malagoli are this Giuseppe Giusti balsamic that's aged 25 years or this 12 year old DOP balsamic vinegar.
My personal favorite is Panna Cotta with Caramelized Figs & DOP Balsamic Vinegar. Just as soon as the figs on our tree are fully ripened I’ll be making this dish!
You might also want to check out this Balsamic Vinegar Cookbook:
One of the most delicious combinations is dark chocolate and DOP balsamic vinegar. Sofia has paired these two ingredients and with the help of a local Modena chocolatier she produced her own line of chocolates. Some of the chocolates are true luxury chocolates in that they are made with 22 karat gold.
Sofia also makes chocolate pralines.
Sofia’s other entrepreneurial endeavors
Recently Sofia has also developed a line of facial creams. Both the chocolates and facial creams are available on Sofia‘s website.
Flavor of Italy Podcast Patreon Subscriber Benefits
if you are a Flavor of Italy Podcast Patreon subscriber then you won’t want to miss out on a private virtual tour of Sofia’s family acetaia. A visit to an acetaia is one of the most unique experiences you can have in Italy and this private virtual tour with Sofia is amazing! If you’d like further information about this private virtual tour contact me directly at my email address.
For information on the details of how both DOP and IGP balsamic vinegar are made be sure to read Italian Balsamic Vinegar: the Real Deal.
Bologna is right around the corner from Modena so if you visit the area be sure to follow this self-guided Best of Bologna Day Trip. Would you rather visit Bologna with me? I offer Bologna Day Trips so send me an email and we'll set it up!
Here's a great recipe for Cauliflower with a Balsamic, Caper and Anchovy Dressing.
I make a small commission on purchases made through links on my website. Prices are identical for you, but purchasing through my links helps support my work to bring you great recipes, podcast episodes, culinary and travel information.