The Modena province in Emilia Romagna, where we lived many years is known as the Home of Balsamic Vinegar. And because it’s one of the places we most love returning to, it’s where we spent our Easter holiday this year. Full of tradition, great food, fine autos, and friendly people, it’s a great place to visit!
Traditional balsamic vinegar, as expensive as it is tasty, is also known for its curative properties: abundant in potassium and calcium, and with antioxidant properties. And is also thought to lower blood pressure, stabilize cholesterol levels, and keep blood glucose levels steady.
But did you know that there are actually 3 categories of Balsamic Vinegar?
- Balsamic Vinegar of Modena — which must be produced within the Modena or Reggio Emilia provinces.
- Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia — which can only be made within the city limits of Reggio Emilia.
- And Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena — which can only be produced within the Modena city limits. This finest of the balsamic vinegars is quite expensive, and a real culinary delight!
All of these have been granted European Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). Which regulates not only where they are made, but also the type of grapes and ingredients used, along with production processes. Any other kinds are not real balsamic vinegars!!
When we lived there, two of Mario’s coworkers gifted us tiny bottles of 50-year old traditional balsamic vinegar, started by their fathers! We greatly prized them considering that a 3.4 oz (100 ml) bottle sells for around €500!
But why should a tiny bottle of vinegar cost so much?
Because the Traditional Balsamic Vinegars (whether made in Modena or Reggio Emilia) take years to make.
Only the white Trebbiano grape goes into this extra fine balsamic. Which must then undergo fermentation for at least 12 years. Or a minimum of 25 years for any labeled extra aged! This fermentation process takes place in barrels of successively smaller size, and of different wood. It always sells in 100 ml (3.4 oz) specially shaped bottles.
But even the plain Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (not bearing the Traditional label), can take several years!
Any grapes traditionally grown in these areas goes into this more economical vinegar. And the vinegar must undergo a minimum of 60 days fermentation. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena aged over 3 years can carry the label aged.
To appreciate how delightful this vinegar is you have to try it! But first watch the following informative video that takes you through the process, from start to finish in just a little over 2 minutes! A promotional video put out by the balsamic producers, but interesting none the less!
And then, enjoy your salad!
[Video via oriGIn/YouTube.]