To make it, workers crush local grapes for wine, then age the elixir for at least 12 years and often decades longer, in progressively smaller wooden barrels as the vinegar concentrates into a heady syrup. The resulting vinegar—thick, ink-black, a balance of sweet and acidic—is a treasured commodity. Bottura actually bought a vinegar company in 1995, and after almost 20 years of aging, one of his batches won a gold medal from the official consortium of Balsamic Vinegar. Clearly, he knows a thing or two about vinegar. But how does this famously inventive chef, one who creates dishes inspired by paintings and songs, relate to a product which has already undergone decades of transformation? We sat down with Bottura and got his opinion of what makes a great vinegar, and how it challenges him as a chef.