Widely used and a much loved condiment, Balsamic vinegar is a condiment originating from Italy. Originally, the traditional product (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale), made from a reduction of cooked white Trebbiano grape juice and not a vinegar in the usual sense.

This product has been made in Modena and Reggio Emilia since the Middle Ages and its production documented dating back to 1046. During the Renaissance, it was appreciated in the House of Este and today, the traditional balsamic vinegar is highly valued by chefs and gourmet food lovers. The word balsamico, derived from Latin balsamum/Greek balsamon)means “balsam-like” to mean “restorative” or “curative”.

Types of Balsamic Vinegar

The names “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena” (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena) and “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia” (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia) are protected by both the Italian Denominazione di origine protetta and the European Union’s Protected Designation of Origin.

Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Aceto Balsamico di Modena), is an inexpensive modern imitation of the traditional product, widely available and much better known. This is the kind commonly used for salad dressing together with oil.

Three types of balsamic vinegar:

  1. Authentic traditional artisan balsamic vinegar (the only kind that may legally be described as Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale in the Euro-zone).
  2. Commercial grade balsamic vinegars produced on an industrial scale.
  3. Condimento grade products, which are often a mix of the two above.

True Balsamic Vinegar

True balsamic vinegar is made from a reduction of pressed Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes resulting in a thick syrup, called mosto cotto in Italian. It is aged for a minimum of 12 years in seven barrels of successively smaller sizes. These casks are made of different woods like: chestnut, acacia, cherry, oak, mulberry, ash, and in the past, juniper. A true balsamic vinegar is rich, glossy, deep brown in color and has a complex flavour, a balance of the natural sweet and sour elements of the cooked grape juice with hints of their wood casks. Only two consortia produce true traditional balsamic vinegar, Reggio Emilia and neighboring Modena.

Reggio Emilia has age designations to their balsamic vinegar (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia) by label colour. RED: A red label means the vinegar has been aged for at minimum of 12 years. SILVER: a silver label indicates that the vinegar has aged for at least 18 years. GOLD: a gold label that indicates that the vinegar has aged for 25 years or more.

Modena uses a different system to indicate the age of its balsamic vinegars (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena). CREAM CAP: A cream-coloured cap indicates that the vinegar has aged for at minimum of 12 years. MAGENTA CAP: A magenta cap bearing the designation extravecchio (extra old) shows the vinegar has aged for 25 years or more.

Paired with typically un-vinegar like foods, the finest balsamics are outstanding on ice cream and strawberries!

VIDEO: Producing Balsamic Vinegar: Napa Valley

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