In Manzano, an old farmhouse in the heart of the countryside on the Colli Orientali del Friuli hosts a "balsameria" where, from an ancient Roman tradition, a one-of-a-kind balsamic dressing aged for over 50 years is born.
The story of Asperum begins during a visit by the entrepreneur Lino Midolini to the archaeological area of Aquileia, the ancient Roman capital, famous for having ‘exported’ to Friuli the custom of cooked must which was used to give dishes the characteristic sweet and sour taste.
This tradition trigged happy childhood memories in Lino, such as when as a child his grandmother used to prepare cooked must with polenta or sweet ravioli. We are at the end of the 1950s and, inspired by reviving the food and wine myth of the balsamic sauces of the great Aquileia, Lino begins to produce, in his recently acquired vineyards in the Colli Orientali del Friuli, the autochthonous Refosco and Friulano grapes which, once cooked, give life to the precious must.
My father’s motto was “doing what others don’t do” and, still today, this vision guides us to always do better and break new ground…of taste, techniques and combinations.
Lino begins to experiment with the precious balsamic dressing in the first wooden barrels and, slowly, he produces better and “older” ones, until he decides to start marketing it under the name of Asperum, inspired by the Latin motto Per aspera ad astra (through adversity to the stars).
The hectares of the estate have now become 100, so much so that Midolini has even entered the Guinness Book of Records as the largest balsameria in the world. Despite this title, each production phase, from harvesting to aging, is rigorously done with artisan methods and refinement in 7 different precious woods from a minimum of 12 up to over 50 years.
To understand the incredible processing of this gourmand product, just think that starting from 100 kg of grape, after 30 years, only 100 ml of balsam are obtained, boasting a very low degree of acidity, compared to traditional vinegar.
Based on the years of aging, the balsam is divided into the Gourmet, the Premium and the SuperPremium line. The flagship of Midolini’s production is, in fact, Asperum 50 years Limited Edition, pure cooked must aged for over 50 years with the Solera method (used for Marsala or Sherry) and produced in very few bottles.
Boasting a hand-beaten gold leaf bottle, Asperum 50 can be tasted in drops, preferably with a special porcelain spoon, and it is simply sublime paired with caviar and dark chocolate.
Today it is Gloria Midolini who manages the company located, after a skillful restoration in the 90s, in an old farmhouse, where the stable has been transformed into the tasting room, while the old barn into the balsameria where the wooden barrels rest quietly for years.
An eclectic creative, Gloria has not only inspired product and packaging innovations, but she has also transformed the factory into a real “balsamic” art gallery, between colored walls and works of art that come and go, always new and different, depending on the mood or on the seasons.
So beautiful that, besides tastings and guided tours, Midolini regularly organizes also dinners, gourmet picnics, and different sorts of events.
Also thanks to the collaboration with chef Kevin Gaddi, Ambassador of FVG Taste, Asperum is proposed in delicious combinations, especially with traditional products of the Region such as raw ham or smoked trout from San Daniele and the Frant cheese typical of Alta Carnia.
Do not miss the tasting, by reservation available also on weekends, of three types of pure Asperum which includes the pairing with a special chocolate. Produced by Mosaico from Aquileia it is created for Midolini in small bars modeled to contain a drop of balsamic vinegar in their center.
What’s chicer than serving it with black gloves on a silver tray?
The must is a sweet and sour sauce, called “sapa” by the ancient Romans, obtained by slow-cooking selected grape musts. In ancient Rome, sapa was used both to flavor dishes and as a natural digestive. Rich in antioxidants, it is a beneficial and tonic panacea, hence the name Balsamic.