As indicated earlier balsamic vinegar “seems to found its current roots in Modena in an area just between Ferrara and Reggio Emilia. Careful methods of growing, cooking and aging the grapes were introduced to Modena farmers in the second half of 1500 when the Corte Ducale Estense moved from Ferrara.” Indeed, all authentic balsamic vinegars may be traced to the win growing areas surrounding Modena.
Why Modena for producing Balsamic Vinegar?
Clearly, historical precedent has played a large part in concentrating the production of balsamic vinegar in the environs of Modena. Nevertheless, the intense seasonal changes in temperature in Modena are also quite important in the maturation of the vinegar. The winter frost makes the balsamic clear and the scorching Modenese summer heat tends to concentrate the sugars, acidity and its distinctive agro-dolce flavor. The mild autumn and spring temperatures are when the microbiological activity takes place in the aging barrels.
While production processes vary from vintner to vintner, pressed grapes being are immediately cooked (slowly) in an open container over a flame. This process takes place after the late harvest of the native Modena grapes such as Trebbiano and Lambrusco, towards the end of September. After the grape must or “mosto cotto” cools and settles, it is placed in barrels to begin the maturation process.
Finding “authentic” Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
Given the popularity of balsamic vinegar in food preparation, many unscrupulous producers and wholesalers have surfaced to misrepresent balsamic vinegar that is harvested, aged and bottled in the wine-growing areas surrounding Modena. As indicated in Wikipedia:
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.
Only two consortia produce true traditional balsamic vinegar, Modena and neighboring Reggio Emilia. Reggio Emilia designates the different ages of their balsamic vinegar (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia) by label color. A red label means the vinegar has been aged for at least 12 years, a silver label that the vinegar has aged for at least 18 years and a gold label that designates 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). A white-coloured cap means the vinegar has aged for at least 12 years and a gold cap bearing the designation extravecchio (extra old) shows the vinegar has aged for 25 years or more.
Indeed, “Traditional” Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is labeled with a D.O.P. certification and both the bottle and label must be approved and certified by the Italian Consortium before the vinegar is bottled. This provides the consumer with assurance that the wine is 100% wine must. This is the most expensive variety of balsamic vinegar.
Balsamic vinegar with the I.G.P. certification (Gourmet Living’s vinegar from Modena) is similarly controlled by the Consortium to monitor the origin and aging of the wine must, but wine vinegar is added to aged wine must at different stages of the maturation process to produce a slightly more acidic taste.
To learn about some of the nutritional benefits of balsamic vinegar, READ ON!