Recently, a buyer of Gourmet Living’s balsamic vinegar of Modena on Amazon.com, left a review in which they remarked that they were surprised that the “age” of the vinegar was not printed on the label. Presumably, the buyer had seen other producers and bottlers list the age of their particular brand of balsamic on the bottle. THIS IS NOT PERMITTED BY THE ITALIAN CONSORTIUM which oversees the production and proper labeling of balsamic vinegar and, quite frankly, I would be highly suspect of any company which claims to KNOW THE AGE OF THEIR VINEGAR.
Also, there are several “Best Sellers” on Amazon that falsely claim to be selling “TRADITIONAL” balsamic vinegar from Modena. This is simply not true as ALL “Traditional” vinegar of Modena is tested, bottled and sealed by the Italian Consortium in a distinctly shaped 100 ml bottle shown below. Any producer that claims to be selling “Traditional” balsamic vinegar of balsamic vinegar that has been aged 18 years, 30 years or more is probably selling you a fraudulent product. BEWARE!
Given the cost of traditional “affinato” balsamic vinegar (an authentic 100 ml bottle aged a minimum of 12 years will cost approximately$100), most informed consumers will opt for IGP certified balsamic vinegar which consists of a mixture of barrel-aged wine must and wine vinegar. In effect, the wine must which forms the basis of traditional balsamic vinegar (i.e. 100% wine must) is cut with the addition of wine vinegar.
As a rule of thumb, the higher the percentage of wine vinegar in relation to the wine must, the less expensive it is to produce the product. For instance, many balsamic vinegar vinaigrettes consist of far more wine vinegar than wine must. In fact, some IGP certified “balsamic vinegars” may consist of wine must that has been aged 60 days. This explains why many buyers of Gourmet Living’s vinegar are surprised that it is somewhat sweeter and far more syrupy than less expensive brands of balsamic vinegar. Read more on the official classification of balsamic vinegar.
Why it is Difficult to Determine the Age of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
The wine must used to produce balsamic vinegar is aged in a series of ever smaller barrels called a battery. As stated previously, it takes 12 years of aging to produce a wine must that can be certified as “traditional” by the Italian consortium. Each year, roughly 1/4 of the contents of the smallest barrel (12 or 25 years old) is removed for bottling as traditional balsamic vinegar (affinato for 12 years and extravecchio for 25 years). The smallest barrel is topped up to a level equivalent equal to 4/5 from the next smallest barrel. This process repeats itself through the battery of barrels until this year’s harvest is added to the largest barrel in the battery.
In effect, it is impossible to determine the true “age” of balsamic vinegar since all barrels contain the remnants of previous vintages. As such, one should be especially careful in accepting the false premise that you are receiving balsamic vinegar that has a specific age
See what others are saying about Gourmet Living’s Goccia d’Oro balsamic vinegar of Modena.