La Marque

cinquecento anni di storia in una goccia

In the early 1500’s, when the House of the Dukes of Este was under Alphons I, different varieties of vinegar were regularly used as seasoning or dressing, as a “preserving agent” for the food served at the ducal court banquets and  to enhance the best recipes of that period, which were created by Cristoforo Messisburgo, Master of Ceremonies at the Court of the Dukes of Este. There are many historical records available from this period, which include various recipes for vinegar production.  We shall focus on those of the House of the Dukes of Este.At first, vinegar was mainly produced through natural acetification of the grape must from the red grape varietals, known as “Uva d’oro” (golden grapes), that were grown on the Este family estates. The same grapes were also used to produce a wine called “Vin di Bosco”.  Whatever remained from banquets, was turned into vinegar.It is an historical fact that in the 16th Century, the vinegar cellars known as the “acetaie ducali ” of the Court of Ferrara, produced vinegars for different gastronomic uses by blending vinegar with raw must.  In addition, information stored in the state archives for the city of Modena reveals that the “acetaia” of the Ducal House of Este was stored in barrels that at first were filled with red wine. The vinegars were classified as common (used for cooking), as fine (to put on the dining table) and as “sopraffini” (extra fine), which were for the Duke and his banquet guests.In the first volume of his most significant work, “Elementa rei Rusticae”, a comprehensive study published in 1794 of agricultural science, which also covered vinegar making practices, historian, researcher and writer Mitterpacher also confirms that first in Ferrara and later on in Modena, at the Court of the Dukes of Este, vinegar was produced using the raw must of red grape varieties., In his book, the “Elements of Agriculture”, published in 1802, Earl Filippo Re confirms Mitterpacher’s findings that the vinegar of the Court of the Dukes of Este was produced from raw must.  Re also states that the minimum ageing period had to be not less than six years. The use of modest quantities of reduced must during the ageing process of the “Aceto Sopraffino” is not excluded. This is to increase the development of acetobacteria and to improve taste. The “Aceto Sopraffino” extra fine vinegar produced by the ducal House of Este never failed to please and was highly prized.  It was often given as a gift to rulers and dignitaries of European Houses, who had appreciated it during their stays at the Estes estates. Unlike the other “acetaie” in the dukedom at the time, the vinegar cellars of the House of Este continued production according to their own long-standing traditions. Initially the vinegars were stored in special attic chambers in the castle garrets in Ferrara. When the court was subsequently forced to retreat to Modena, the vinegars were then stored in the garrets of the castle’s southern keep. This latter location exposed the vinegars to temperature differences and excursions due to seasonal changes and resulted in a natural reduction of the vinegars, which improved their aroma and taste. The contemporary version of Aceto Sopraffino features a dynamic production process that mimics the natural thermal variations of the ancient garrets. From the 16th century onwards, the “acetaie” of the House of Este produced vinegar for use by the Court kitchens without interruptions, until the Napoleonic occupation which then forced Duke Hercules Rinaldo III to leave Modena in 1796. A good portion of the acetaie were dismembered and probably put up for sale by the Duke himself in order to pay for his army’s battles with the French. But, despite the wars vinegar production in the Modena palace never came to a complete stop.After the restoration of the Duchy of Este by the Congress of Vienna, Francis IV of the House of Austria-Este and Duke of Modena had the acetaie restored back to their original condition. He commissioned the battery of barrels for his acetaie from the Prandini family who were the most renowned master artisan barrel-makers of the time. With the arrival of the Savoy armies in 1859 and the subsequent annexation of the Duchy to the Kingdom of Sardinia, Francis V abandoned Modena. By order of Victor Emmanuel II of Italy, the acetaie were transferred by the Savoy family to their castle in Moncalieri. In time, production  was stopped as the staff of the Savoy court had neither the culture, the traditions or the skill to keep the acetaie going. Studies on the traditional production methods of the Aceto Sopraffino of the House of the Dukes of Este, were resumed in 1994. Per resolution by Andrea Czarnocki Lucheschi, by his wife Isabella, Archduchess of Austria-Este and by the current Duke of the House of Este, plans for the reconstruction of the “acetaie” vinegar cellars for the production of the Aceto Sopraffino were initiated in year 2000. In an effort to follow tradition as closely as possible, the barrels were once again commissioned from the Prandini family, descendants of the renowned master artisan barrel and and cask-makers that at the time had also supplied Francis V with his casks. Naturally they were commissioned with the request that they be made identically to those of the times. Family tree of the Ducal House of Este from the 16th century 

  • Alphons I (1476-1534) who nominated Cristoforo Messisburgo as Master of Ceremonies at his court
  • Ercole II  (1508-1559)
  • Caesar (1533-1628)
  • AlphonsIII (1628-1644)
  • Francis I (1622-1694)
  • Rinaldo (1694-1737)
  • Francis III (1737-1780)
  • ErcoleIII (1780-1803) deposed by the French in  1796
  • AustrianHouse of Este
  • Francis IV (1814-1846)
  • Francis V (1846-1875) annexation to  the Kingdom of  Sardegna 1859
  • Carlo Ludovico (1832-1896)  brother of Emperor Francesco Giuseppe
  • Francesco Ferdinando (1863 -1914) assasinated in  Sarajevo
  • Robert (1815-1996) married  Margherita Savoia-Aosta from whom:
  • Lorenz (1955);  Isabella (1963) married Andrea Czarnocki Lucheschi

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