All About Balsamic Vinegar

balsamic vinegarBalsamic Vinegar has been produced in Modena, a city and municipality in Central Northern Italy, since mediaeval times. In modern times this historic city has become famous as the home of the renowned Italian sports cars, Ferrari, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Maserati.

True Balsamic Vinegars made in the traditional way come not only from Modena but also from nearby Reggio Emilia.

How Balsamic Vinegar is Made

They are aged for a minimum of twelve years in a succession of casks made from a variety of woods from which they gain their subtle mix of flavors.

As a great deal of evaporation takes place as the vinegars age they become dark sweet and slightly syrupy taking on a deliciously aromatic nose. Because of the complexity of the process it is very labor intensive, hence the high price.

Protection

True Balsamic Vinegars are protected by the Denominazione di Origine Controllata and the European Unions Protected Designation of Origin, similar to the restrictions to the use of the word Champagne on sparkling wines from other regions.

A true traditional Balsamic Vinegar can be recognized by the use of the word Traditionale on the label. For example Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena.

There are designations of Traditionale Balsamico according to age. The vinegars of Modena have a red label for a Balsamic aged for a minimum of twelve years, a silver label for at least eighteen years and a gold label for twenty-five years or more.

Reggio Emilia uses a white label to designate a Balsamic that has aged for twelve years or more and a gold label featuring the word extravecchio to guarantee the vinegar has aged for twenty-five years minimum.

Appreciation of True Balsamic Vinegar

To really appreciate the magnificent aromas and flavors of true Balsamicos be sure to read the labels and be prepared to pay a lot of money for the real thing, fortunately a little goes a long way so use it sparingly and you will still get to enjoy that great taste.

The poor relations to traditional Balsamic Vinegars are known as Condimento balsamic vinegars and are made in much the same way as are the Tradicionales. They are either produced outside the two regions or do not qualify for approval and do not conform to any official standards.

At the bottom of the pile comes commercial grade balsamic vinegars and most cases this is our introduction to the world of out of the ordinary vinegars.

In some cases these are made by just one aging in an oak barrel with the addition of sugar, and some are nothing more than ordinary wine vinegar, often red, with added coloring and sugar. That is not to say that they are not suitable for dressings or other culinary uses and many are perfectly acceptable to the palate, regrettably others are just plain horrible and you are better off with a simple apple cider or malt vinegar.

It is not widely known but traditional balsamic vinegar can make a really tasty after dinner drink, they can enhances the flavors when small amounts are added to fruits particularly strawberries and figs, but more on the gourmet benefits later.

Suggested Reading

The Incredible Healing Powers of Vinegar

Vinegar is Natures Gift to Man

Do you Know How to Lose Weight with Vinegar?


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