Balsamic vinegar introduction
Balsamic vinegar is steeped in history. Italian Balsamic Vinegar was commercialized well after World War II, but its real introduction to the world of gourmet cooking occurred in the latter 1970s, when Italian chefs realized its intense flavors and complexity added wondrously to their cooking styles. Foreigners were attracted to this new condiment and its awareness grew swiftly. The local balsamic vinegar producing families of Modena and Reggio could not cope with the sharp rise in the demand. Imitation vinegars were seen as a way to take advantage of the situation and thus became prevalent on the market. In the late 1970s, commercial cheap balsamic vinegar recorded annual sales of over 1.75 million liters while the authentic tradizionale sold only 1760 liters.The traditional producers of Modena and Reggio sought to distinguish themselves from the imitation versions by waging campaigns. A fierce rivalry resulted with each of the two towns claiming their exclusivity on the acclaimed vinegar. Finally in 1987, Modena and Reggio were granted a dual Domain of Control, or DOC.
Today, whatever balsamic vinegar is produced in Italy must conform to the decree of the Ministry of Agriculture to be labeled ’Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale’. Modena and Reggio share the responsibility of certification and bottling of the authentic tradizionale balsamico. The vinegar is required to be made traditionally in the artisan method, in Modena or Reggio, and aged for at least 12 years to receive the consortium seal and be labeled ’Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale’. It will not contain any wine vinegar or caramel. The balsamic vinegar undergoes stringent tests for color, taste, aroma and density conducted by five experts. Only a third of submitted balsamic vinegar samples are approved. These will get the authentic seal and are bottled into 100 ml bottles, in the presence of the consortium members.The term commercial vinegar is a distasteful one in Italy but accounts for about 99% of the total balsamic vinegar in the market. Recently, consumers have become familiar with the misleading terms and know more about authentic balsamic vinegar, resulting in a rise in the sales of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale.
It is ironic that the modern balsamic vinegar producers have given up the traditional methods and are experimenting with newer means of producing rich and complex vinegar in a shorter span of time. The enormous expenses of housing balsamic vinegars for 12 to 50 years is greatly reduced when the balsamic vinegar is bottled and sold at a much younger age. The younger generation of producers do have vinegar that qualify for the consortium seal but do not submit it for the same. They sell the balsamico at prices ranging from $16 to $30 per 250 ml bottle. This vinegar has become popular with frugal Italian cooks. It is an excellent alternative for those who feel $110 or more per bottle is too steep a price for balsamic vinegar or simply cannot afford it.
Each year, the Palio di San Giovanni is hosted by the Consorteria dell’ Aceto Balsamico Naturale di Spilamberto, an association of 1200 balsamic vinegar producers and devotees. Producers enter their best balsamico to be judged by a trained panel of experts. Maximum score is 400 points with a 250 point vinegar qualifying to be labeled as Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale.balsamic vinegar, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, Modena