Traditional Modena balsamic vinegar, the most precious gastronomic product in the world

Modena Balsamic Vinegar is probably the most precious food product, natural but developed by man, in the world.

At an auction in 2007 100ml of the product was sold for 1700 euros.

The main difference between the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and other vinegars is that standard balsamic vinegars are made from instant mixtures or wine vinegars, and often include additives.

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is based only on grapes must and juice, which is reduced by a third after cooking it for about 10hours, and is then left to ferment for many years in a set of wood barrels.

The sweetness, aroma and cremosity of the traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena is uncomparable with commercial products sold at retail stores.

The origins of the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena go back a long time.

The recipe for this excellent vinegar is quite simple, but the unique climatic conditions in Modena, and the quality of the local grapes make this product almost impossible to reproduce elsewhere.

How to enjoy it

Image courtesy of Irene Romeres
Modena balsamic vinegar

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar can be enjoyed with almost any food, by following just one rule...

It should be used raw and added at the last moment just before serving, in order not to loose its great cocktail of aromas and flavours.

Do you think strawberries with chocolate taste awesome?

Wait until you try them with Traditional Balsamic Vinegar. It's also amazing over scales of parmesan cheese or poured on vanilla ice cream.

One of the best pasta dishes I've ever had is tortellini on a cream sauce served on a crust of parmesan cheese, with Modena balsamic vinegar poured on top.

You can have a look at these great local recipes from Modena, all based on Traditional Balsamic Vinegar.

How to recognize Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena from other products

There is some confusion with the naming of the product.

Standard 'balsamic vinegar' can be purchased in almost every store and is usually made with instant mixtures and a variety of additives, preservatives or thickeners.

The names 'balsamic vinegar of Modena' or 'Modena balsamic vinegar' indicate that the product is aged up to 3 years, even more in some cases. However, additives may also be used.

The best Modena balsamic vinegar is referred to as 'Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena', and is exclusively made from fermented natural must aged at least 12 or 25 years, with no extra additives or presevatives.

The vinegar aged 12 years is referred to as 'invecchiato', while the 25 years' as 'extravecchio'.

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is characterised by a typical bottle specifically designed by Giugiaro (see picture).

This bottle has a gold capsule on top, a hologram which certifies the quality, and a label which may vary with the product.

This bottle is 100% guarantee that the product is a Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena of certified quality aged at least 25 years.

Other products, in particular those reporting the years of aging in the bottle, should not be trusted.

This doesn't mean that excellent balsamic vinegars may not be found in different bottles. After all, as discussed in the history section, thousands of private families still make their own vinegar.

However, this particular bottle is guarantee that the product is balsamic vinegar of the tradition of Modena, aged at least 12 or 25 years.

The Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena acquired in 2000 the PDO trademark (protected designation of origin), assigned by the EU to the most important gastronomic products.

The Consorteria

The Consorteria is an non-profit institute which aims to protect, divulge and promote the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.

The titles of the members of the Consorteria evoke memories of ancient traditions. There is the Great Master, the Vicar, the Gastaldo and other roles with different functions within the board elected by 1000 associates.

The consorteria also organizes courses for Tasters of balsamic vinegar. They are held twice a week and last for approximately two months.

A Museum of the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is located at the premises of the Consorteria.

I personally visited the Museum and I think it's really worth a visit, if you are in Northern Italy and pay a visit to Modena.

For approximately 4 euros you can run through the history and the making of the product, AND you can have a free tasting.

The contact details of the Consorteria and Museum can be found

here, and you can also have an online tour of the Museum (you will need Quick Time Movie Player installed).

The Palio

The Palio is a competition where the best Traditional Balsamic Vinegars from the province of Modena are awarded.

It takes place during the age-old festival of St John in Spilamberto (Modena) on the 24th of June.

Many producers bring their own vinegars to the Tasters and Students of the Consorteria, who declare the results and the winner during the festival.

During the six weeks prior to the Palio, approximately 13800 different tastings are made.

In 2010, approximately 1300 samples were brought by families of Modena to compete at the Palio.

Receiving the award for the best Traditional Balsamic Vinegar is a very important achievement for the people of Modena.

It's the recognition of a long-term commitment.

The Palio is also an opportunity to assess the status of Modena Balsamic Vinegar in the territory, because all samples from the province are tasted.

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