Aceto Balsamico

The king of vinegars - balsamic vinegar from Modena in Italy
Learn everything about the black gold from Italy!



Balsamic Vinegar - Aceto Balsamico

1st hand knowledge - things you should be aware before you buy a real balsamic vinegar.

You will find the following contents about balsamic vinegar below:


Intro - fake or real - How to tell the difference

Balsamic vinegar is a product made from grapes and originates in northern Italy, more precisely in the wine region of Modena. This region is known for its good wine, cheese and ham. In the region of Modena, as well as in the neighbouring region of Reggio Emilia to the east, balsamic vinegar has been produced for centuries.

We generally distinguish between three different types of balsamic vinegar:

  • balsamic vinegar PDO
  • balsamic vinegar PGI
  • balsamic vinegar which is not PGI or PDO

The two abbreviations are important to understand because they define the minimum requirements for the product:

  • PDO = protected designation of origin (D.O.P. in Italian language)
  • PGI = protected geographical indication (I.G.P. in Italian language)


Products that call themselves balsamic vinegar and do not bear either of the two abbreviations are not subject to any manufacturer's rules and can in principle also be made from other raw materials such as sugar beet, apples or simply coloured water instead of grapes. Of course, there are also balsamic vinegars that cannot be bought as PDO or PGI and are of high quality, but it is important to look closely and question the ingredients and their production if you are unsure before buying

The PDO seal guarantees that the raw material, processing and bottling have taken place in the region.

The PGI seal, on the other hand, guarantees that only one of the three production steps (production, processing or preparation) has taken place in the region. The bottling could take place in Thailand, for example.

As you can see, the seals are only one instrument to ensure the product and its quality. In order to create even more security for the consumer and to protect balsamic vinegar from counterfeiting, the following terms have been protected in the EU:

  • Aceto Balsamico di Modena I.G.P.
  • Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena D.O.P.
  • Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia D.O.P.


The combination of PDO or PGI seal with the protected name on the bottle offers the highest security for you as a consumer when you want to enjoy an original balsamic vinegar from Italy.

Therefore, pay attention to the inscription on the label and the seal. If you are unsure, just ask us by e-mail.

Aceto Balsamico di Modena I.G.P. - the most popular balsamic vinegar from Italy

The protected designation "Aceto Balsamico di Modena I.G.P." is a vinegar which must always have an acidity of 6%. The vinegar consists of a portion of grape must and a portion of wine vinegar. On particularly high-quality products, you can read on the label what the percentage of grape must used is. The order of the ingredients also tells you whether it contains more grape must or more wine vinegar. The ingredient that is mentioned first has the greater percentage. Balsamic vinegars with a high percentage of wine vinegar are usually inferior to vinegars with a high percentage of grape must.

Lesson - How to proof a Balsamic Vinegar from Modena:

  • The yellow / blue P.G.I. / I.G.P. seal need to be on back or front label
  • It always has an acidity of 6%
  • The product is made from grape must and wine vinegar
  • Pricing starts at 0,50 cents per liter for low quality / discount balsamic vinegar
  • First ingredient should be grape must, second wine vinegar to a get higher quality
  • Check viscosity, the denser the better - but keep in mind, only 2 ingredients (wine vinegar, grape must) should be used!
  • Be ware of E150d or other caramel syrup, additional sugars or chemical or natural thickeners.
  • Keep in mind: Grape must concentrate (a white is not the same like cooked grape must



Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena D.O.P. - only made from cooked grape must

The traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena P.D.O. (TBV) is sold only in one typical bottle shape with 100ml / 3.4 fl.oz. If you get a traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena P.D.O. in a 250ml / 8.4 fl oz. or 500ml / 16.9 fl.oz - then you know - it's not amn traditional balsamic vinegar from Mondea P.D.O. Also the price range starts usually at $50 / bottle for the Affinato (aged for at least 12 years) and up to $500 when it comes to the 25+ years matured golden Extravecchio.

Tip: You ALWAYS find the yellow / red P.D.O seal and the name "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena D.O.P." on the front label. In case it is a Extravecchio the bottleneck is gold and the name "extravecchio" is on the front label, too.

Lesson - How to proof a TBV from Modena:

  • Always the same bottle shape
  • Only 100ml / 3.4 oz fl
  • Aged at least 12 years in wooden barrels
  • Only made out of cooked grape must
  • Yellow / red D.O.P seal
  • Front label will show you "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena D.O.P."



Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia D.O.P. - different bottle shape, also 100% grape must

Balsamico - Reggio Emilia Aceto Schild



The traditional balsamic vinegar from REGGIO EMILIA, a region geographically next to Modena in Italy, is also able to produce a certified P.D.O balsamic vingar, proteced by the European Union. The product is very similar to the one from Modena, just the bottle shape and the way of the available qualities is different. The shape of the bottle is like a tulip and there are three available qualities instead of only two in Modena. The traditional balsamic vinegar from Reggio Emilia is available in Aragosta (hummer color), Argento (silver) and Oro (gold). The Aragosta quality is aged for at least 12 years. The next level the Argento needs to reach minium of points in visual, sensoric and organoleptic tests to the silver seal. The last quality level is the golden Oro with the highest standard.

Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia (ABT di RE or TBV from RE) is available in three qualities: over 12 years old, over 18 years old and over 25 years old. It, too, is only bottled in 100ml bottles (see below), but they have a different shape than the Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. The traditional balsamic vinegar from Reggio Emilia also does not have an age statement on the bottle like the traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena.

Abbildung Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia

Check before you buy: You will see the color of these three quality levels on the front label. Also the name "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia D.O.P." is mandatory for the labeling.

Lesson - How to proof a TBV from Reggio Emilia:

  • Tulip bottle shape
  • Usually bottled in 100ml / 3.4 fl oz - but in some rare cases you will find a 10ml / 0.34 fl oz and 250ml / 8.45 fl oz.
  • Only authenticated with the yellow/red D.O.P. seal



Aceto Balsamico - same same, but different - "Tradizionale" is the key

In general, any vinegar in the world can call itself that, regardless of where and how it was made. Even a vinegar from Japan, Canada or Germany can call itself Aceto Balsamico / Balsamic Vinegar. So the name Aceto Balsamico says nothing at all about the origin and certainly nothing about the quality.

This has now changed somewhat since 2009. Aceto Balsamico di Modena has been included by the EU Commission in the list of foods with a protected geographical indication. This means that an Aceto Balsamico di Modena must have been produced in the provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia in order to be called so.

Nevertheless, Aceto Balsamico (di Modena) has as much in common with Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale as fast food has with a dinner in an upscale gourmet restaurant. Aceto Balsamico (di Modena) is a standard product produced by the millions, while Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale is a rare masterpiece of passionate people and should be bought with care.

Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale is made exclusively from the boiled down grape must of white and red grapes, mainly Trebbiano, Lambrusco and Sauvignon. Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale (ABT) is a pure natural product to which neither preservatives nor colourings are added. ABT is a rare and strictly controlled product of which there are only about 100,000 bottles of 100 ml per year. This means that there are only about 10,000 litres (!) of this precious and noble vinegar per year. Once bottled, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale has an almost unlimited shelf life, even after opening.

As a rule, the quality of Aceto Balsamico (di Modena) is more "industriale" than "tradizionale". Take wine vinegar, some grape must or grape must concentrate, caramel, aromas, preservatives and glycerine - and the cheap version of an Aceto Balsamico is ready. In terms of content and even more so in terms of taste, this imitation has nothing to do with Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale.

If the traditional balsamic vinegar comes from Modena or the surrounding area, it is available in 2 qualities: over 12 years old and over 25 years old. The balsamico gets its dark brown colour and syrupy consistency from its long maturation in different wooden barrels.

Foto Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale 12 Jahre altYou can recognise the 12-year-old (left-hand illustration) by the cream or red capsule (depending on which of the two associations bottled it), while the 25-year-old (right-hand illustration) has a golden capsule.

Abbildung Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale 25  Jahre alt

By the way... There is no age indication on the bottles. This is forbidden for genuine ABT. Only the designation "extravecchio" shows that it is an ABT over 25 years old (right-hand illustration). Some Acetaien, such as Bompana, also indicate how old the barrels are in which the ABTM was stored and matured.

Where can you buy a high quality Aceto Balsamico?

Option A) directly from the producer:

Balsamico vom Erzeuger direkt kaufen

Buying balsamic vinegar directly from the producer is probably the best option to buy. In case you buy a traditional balsamic vinegar, then the local producer is usually able to make a tasting from the barrels that are used in the traditional balsamic vinegar bottles you can buy in the acetaia. Unfortunately, this option is not available to everyone at all times, nor does every acetaia offer a local shopping availability. The next option is to place an order directly with the vinegar producer of your choice in Italy.

Some winegrowers run their own websites with online shops attached - some you can only contact by phone. The disadvantage is that if you don't speak Italian, you won't always find someone who understands your language. 

Please bear in mind that the shipping costs are usually between $15 to $20 per parcel. Unfortunately, shipping from Italy to U.S. or U.K. is outrageously expensive. Also, the Italian vinegar farmers usually want the money for the order from you in advance, which requires a certain amount of trust. From experience, delivery times and customs are between 7 - 20 working days.

Option B) At the local delicatessen:

If you want to buy a real Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale from a 100% ABTM vinegar cellar here in the country, you can try your luck in a delicatessen. From my experience, get ABTMs from Ponti, Fini, Mazzetti, Guisti or Malpighi producers in your town's delicatessen temples - these four not only produce ABTM, but are quite large vinegar producers, mainly producing Italian industrial vinegar. Due to their size, they market ABTM in wholesale markets and delicatessen chains in Europe and all over the world. A search for delicatessens should show you retailers in your area. Unfortunately, I have not been able to discover any really 100% specialised ABTM retailers in the stationary trade in Germany in the last 10 years. If you know of a good local dealer in your region, I would be happy to hear from you.

What means "white / bianco" balsamic vinegar

Really good balsamic vinegar is always brown, which has something to do with the way it is made and the maturing process in the wooden barrel. A white balsamic vinegar, also know a condimento balsamico bianco is in 95% of all cases made from grape must concentrate, wine vinegar and preservatives. In other words, the "Condimento Balsamico bianco" is very likely to be an industrial product. Due to the lack of maturation time, the balsamic vinegar lacks its colour - this comes into the vinegar via the tannins and the sugar from the cooked grape must and the wooden barrels. So if the balsamic vinegar is not brown, you have to add colouring agents like E150 / caramel colour, otherwise it remains clear and light. The taste of a white balsamic vinegar cannot change naturally either - the taste also comes with the process of maturing over many years - if you shorten the process, you have to help it artificially with sugar or thickeners such as corn starch and other additives used in industrial vinegar production.

Lesson: What you to know about white balsamic vinegar

  • white balsamic vinegars are a own category, that has often nothing in common with a real balsamic vinegar
  • often white balsamic vinegars have added sugar or thickeners
  • white balsamic vinegars are made of grape must concentrate (not cooked grape must).



Balsamico WeißThere are, however, a few exceptions - for example, the Condimento Prelibato from Acetaia Malpighi - a white vinegar that in its riserva variant, which is uncooked, matures for about eight years in ash wood barrels and can therefore hardly take on a brownish colour. This light balsamic, which consists only of white grape must, could well be called a genuine Condimento Balsamico Bianco without additives. However, and this is often forgotten, the vinegar has hardly any character due to the lack of tannins and wood aromas. The taste is initially very sweet with a slight white wine note - a bit like a sweet liqueur - and the acidity comes out in the finish, which contrasts nicely with the initial sweetness. However, there is no sign of an aftertaste - and anyone who has ever tasted a real traditional balsamic vinegar will clearly notice the difference.

Lesson: rare product - white balsamic vinegar without additives

  • only very few products available (for example: Condimento Prelibato from Malpighi)
  • White vinegar is not only made from white grapes. It has just matured much shorter.
  • In comparison to a traditional balsamic vinegar, the white condimento has a very light, but sweet character.



Where can you buy high quality balsamic vinegar?

In the local deli :

If you want to buy a real Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale from a 100% ABTM vinegar cellar here in the country, you can try your luck in a delicatessen shop. From my experience, you get the ABTMs of the producers Ponti, Fini, Mazzetti, Guisti or Malpighi in the delicatessen temples of your city - these four not only produce ABTM, but are quite large vinegar producers who mainly produce Italian industrial vinegar. Due to its size, you market the ABTM in wholesale markets and delicatessen chains in Europe and around the world. A search for delicatessens should show you the dealers in your area. Unfortunately, in the past 10 years I have not been able to discover truly 100% specialized ABTM dealers in stationary retail in Germany. If you know a good local dealer in your region, I would be happy to hear from you.


In online delicatessen delivery :

If the effort to drive to a local delicatessen shop is too high or the range or price in your delicatessen shop is not satisfactory, you can also order your Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale on the Internet. There are many offers here, importers such as MGM bring ABTM from Alico (Fattoria Estense) to the online gourmet trade or to the marketplaces of Amazon, Ebay, Rakuten or Idealo. Some vinegar winemakers also market their ABTM range very successfully on their own, including ABT producers Guerzoni, del Cristo, Cattani or Il Borgo (ABTdiRE). These providers either sell their products directly from Italy (unfortunately with corresponding shipping costs) in their own online shop, via the established marketplaces on the web or via the well-known fine-cost mailers such as Dallmayr,


In ABTM / ABTdiRE special shipping :

If you are looking for an ABTM or ABTdiRE specialty mail order company in Germany, which specializes only in ABTM and offers a selection of different ABTMs, you will find it in the ABTM Shop. The online shop Oliceto also offers its customers in Germany a very wide range of different ABTMs.

Lesson: there are a few shops where you can buy the real Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale

  • always look after the labels PGO / GOP
  • to be sure, look in specialized shops.


How long does an Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale last after opening the bottle?

The shelf life is almost unlimited. There is no expiry date or best-before date - even if one is indicated on some bottles for legal reasons. A good traditional balsamic vinegar usually has a shelf life of 10 years printed on it - you can tell from the date whether it is a freshly bottled or a traditional balsamic vinegar - just count back 10 years. It is quite normal for an Acetaia to sell bottles that were filled and tested 2 to 3 years ago.

Shelf life of a traditional balsamic vinegar

The bottle doesn't even need to be stored in a cool place or in the dark. After all, the Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale is used to very different conditions during its decades of expansion in the Acetia: cold in winter and very hot in summer.

However, if you buy or bid for a bottle of traditionally made balsamic vinegar that only lasts for a year (you can see it on the back), then the bottle has been standing somewhere for 9 years. I would not want to order 9 years in the wall unit of a private household, possibly with direct sunlight, as the quality can suffer if improperly stored. For real, unadulterated enjoyment, I recommend buying them from specialist retailers.

Important: The bottle should always be closed airtight so that no further water can evaporate. If this happened, the fructose in the ABT would crystallize over time and the ABT would be ruined. The information that the bottle should not be stored below 10 ° C can also be found on numerous package inserts for a bottled traditional. Read more about the shelf life of balsamic vinegar.

 Lesson: The shelf life of ABT is almost unlimited if you follow the steps below

  • The Bottle should always be closed airtight
  • don't store the bottle in direct sunlight

Is balsamic vinegar healthy?

A good balsamic vinegar like the Tradizionale is also served as a digestif, ie as a digestive drink after a rich meal. Even in the form of an aperitif, the balsamic vinegar can be found on the salad in advance for a reason. Vinegar has a disinfecting effect and, in particular, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, which was made exclusively from grape must, stabilizes the cholesterol level according to this study and reduces the risky oxidation of LDL particles.

The vinegar manufacturer Acetovit, which specializes in the production of vinegar from 100% fruit, has documented the effect of vinegar on our health in great detail and with scientific sources and also goes into detail about the polyphenols also contained in Balsamico Tradizionale.

Christoph Drösser from the newspaper "Die Zeit" got to the bottom of the truth of the wisdom often said in everyday life: " 1 drop of vinegar costs 10 drops of blood " and came to the conclusion that the acid absorbed through the consumption of vinegar is not enough to keep the blood flowing to "dilute". Read for yourself.

Gerhard Weber from the Association of Culinary Food Manufacturers ( Kulinaria ) said in a 2014 statement from the press agency dpa - vinegar is quite healthy, but: " Nobody can drink so much vinegar that it works ".

All of the positive properties of balsamic vinegar are void if additives such as glucose, caramel, E-substances and other additives are adulterated into the vinegar. In that case, it is often no longer possible to speak of healthy. Therefore, make sure that you purchase a purely natural product.

balsamic cream mimics the syrupy consistency of a real balsamic vinegar in which cornstarch and sugar and, if necessary, other additives are added. Accordingly, a balsamic cream is only an imitation, albeit a very tasty imitation due to the high amount of sugar. If you only want to use balsamic vinegar for decoration on a plate, a good balsamic vinegar will do just fine. Some cheap balsamic creams clump when decorating, a sign of too much starch and thickener. If you want to decorate the plates and at the same time convey a healthy taste experience to your guests, choose a real traditional balsamic vinegar.

Lesson: Traditional Balsamic Vinegar can be very healthy if:

  • there are no artificial additives added
  • you make sure you purchase a purely natural product


Why is a real traditional balsamic vinegar so expensive?

The manufacturing process and time are the cause of the high price. A calculation example: From 100kg of grapes you get about 50 liters of grape must. After boiling down, about 30 to 35 liters of must remain and after 20 to 25 years the vinegar winemaker will hold just 1 to 1.5 liters of traditional balsamic vinegar in his hands, which corresponds to about 6 to 11 bottles of ABT a 100ml. Because a barrel is never completely emptied.

In this sense, a traditional balsamic vinegar is dirt cheap, don't you think so? 25 years of work and what remains are a few small bottles of 100ml each. You can find a good article on the most expensive balsamici in the world here.

Lesson: Traditional Balsamic Vinegar is not expensive if you compare it to the work that has to be done to get it and the time it takes to make it.


What do balsamic, whiskey, vodka and rum have in common? - the differences and similarities

Yes, there is a connection between a good whiskey and a balsamic vinegar. Both products mature in wooden barrels for years and the complexity in the taste comes primarily from the wood and its tannins, the tannins. Both stimulants are also used in classic cocktails. The whiskey as an ingredient in probably the most famous cocktail, the whiskey sour and that of the balsamic vinegar, in its noblest form in the Red Passion cocktail.

Parallels in manufacturing

At the beginning, the barley is malted for whiskey and germinated, then the sugar is removed during mashing, which is then converted into alcohol (8-10%) during fermentation. The biggest enemy in whiskey production is vinegar bacteria during fermentation. In the balsamic vinegar production, the grapes are pressed and then the must boiled and then, just like in the production of whiskey, the fermentation begins and here you wait (or consciously add to) what is so avoided in whiskey production, on the vinegar bacteria. If the whiskey mash ("wash") has an alcohol value of approx. 10% after a good 3 days, it is ready to be distilled. This process does not exist in balsamic vinegar production. In principle, the alcohol value is greatly increased during distillation and the taste is enriched with smoke and herbal mixtures. After distilling, the distillate is placed in wooden barrels, mostly oak or old sherry barrels made of chestnut wood. Then the maturation begins in the closed barrel.

Whiskey balsamic vinegarUnlike in balsamic vinegar production, where the barrels are open so that the vinegar can evaporate and thicken. Vinegar cultures can also be added from the whiskey malt mash after the first fermentation, so that the alcohol is converted into vinegar. The noble distillery Weutz from Styria started this attempt and produced an unmistakable, smoky whiskey balsamic vinegar after three years of storage in oak barrels.

In the production of Rum the raw material is sugar cane. From this the mash is created during the rum production and this too ferments together with yeast and converts the sugar into alcohol. After the distillation, the rum is poured into wooden barrels for maturation. By storing it in wooden barrels, the rum gains in taste and the proportion of fusel oils, which are often responsible for the hangover afterwards, is reduced. Similar to a balsamic vinegar, the rum turns brown when it is stored in wooden barrels and the tannins it contains. A light rum, like a Bacardi, therefore indicates a short or no storage - actually just like a balsamico bianco. Good, old rum varieties are called Extra Reserve, Reserva Exclusiva or XO and are usually stored for over 20 years. Comparable to a Traditional "extra old".

In the production of vodka, rye is usually used as a raw material and, similar to whiskey, the raw material is heated until the starch has been converted into sugar. Then yeast is added and when approx. 6% alcohol has formed, the distillation process begins. Unlike whiskey, vodka does not mature in barrels - it is either bottled ready-to-drink or temporarily stored in metal vessels. A new trend, who is surprised, is the attempt to let the vodka mature in oak barrels - Oak by Absolut, for example, mentions one of the attempts.

Also in the production of beer, a brew of ground malt (to be germinated grain, mostly barley / wheat in wheat beer) attached and water, by the way just like the single malt whiskey production. During mashing, the malt sugar is converted into glucose. In the first fermentation process, the influence of yeast turns the sugar in the wort into alcohol. Until then, the production of whiskey and beer is almost identical. If you add hops or hopped beer to the second fermentation, in addition to the vinegar bacteria (the mother vinegar), the alcoholic wort becomes an acidic wort with bitter substances as you know from beer. But be careful - beer brewers fear the Acetobacter Aceti (vinegar bacteria) the so-called vinegar sting and the Lactobacillus casei (lactic acid bacteria), because these make the beer taste sour and unpleasant. An effect that is undesirable with every beer consumption. When making beer vinegar, you want to convert the alcohol into vinegar in the second fermentation - a product Kriegl - unfortunately this does not work entirely without thickeners and additives. Worth mentioning in this context is also the double bock beer vinegar brewery of Stiftsbrauerei Schlägl from the Mühlviertel, the largest hop-growing region in Upper Austria and the double bock fermented vinegar of Fischerauer.

 

Good balsamic vinegars from other countries?

Pretty much anyone can make vinegar. There are also really good sites on the net with instructions that introduce those interested step by step into their own vinegar production. The main thing is that it tastes good. But vinegar! = Balsamic vinegar. One has to distinguish between those who copy out of greed for profit and those who copy in order to create their own individual taste experience.

There are and have always been approaches to produce the real traditional balsamic vinegar outside of the Modena and Reggio Emilia region. Excitingly, the best approaches are those who have acquired the knowledge or even the barrels in the Italian region and have taken them back to their own region. At home they then developed a balsamic vinegar, which impressed with its very own note and character, without looking like a cheap copy. Successful traditionally produced balsamic vinegars (which consist exclusively of cooked grape must and are not stretched with wine vinegar) outside of the well-known regions are the Pecoraro from Klosterneuburg in Austria, the rarities from Gölles and the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Monticello New Mexico (USA). All three make every effort to adapt the production as well as possible and to put the quality of the end product in the foreground.

Further links to the black gold of Italy

You can find more articles about the precious vinegar specialty from Italy at: