Understanding Balsamic Vinegar Oil

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP

Balsamic Vinegar Oil of Modena is a distinct vinegar oil that roots back to ancient Roman times. But instead of using wine like other Italian vinegars, the product is obtained by using the cooked juice of the grape, known as the “must”.


There are a variety of different types of Balsamic Vinegar Oil’s and unfortunately, sometimes they are represented with false claims; for example for their aging claims, quality of ingredients and origin.


This has led to some misconceptions and originated some confusion among traders and consumers. This blog article aims to clarify the different types Balsamic Vinegar and their production process.


Two different recipes originated throughout history, and gave birth to the only two existing, regulated products: Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) and Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP (Protected Geographic Indication)


These two recipes are the only two regulated and approved by the Italian Government and European Union.


Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP

What is Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Oil of Modena?


The Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Oil of Modena is a special vinegar produced by obtaining the juices (must) from pressing the grapes and this must is cooked for hours over direct fire until a brown, syrupy liquid with a good grape smell is obtained (cooked must.) This cooked must is then aged in wooden barrels for a minimum of 12 years following the Solera System.


These barrels are made of a premium assortment of woods such as cherry, chestnut, oak, mulberry, and ash and they each hold different capacities (the first barrel holds about 40 gallons and the last one holds about 2 gallons capacity). Typically there are sets of 5‐7 or 9 barrels. This set is called “batteria”.


The Solera system, also known as the ‘topping up,’ calls for the continuous (every year) and consequent topping up of the cooked must into the next smaller barrel so each year the ‘newest’ cooked grape must is blended with the one from the previous year already contained in the barrel.


It is essential to understand that it is constantly a blend of new harvests with the previous one which explains why the legislator in Italy forbids any aging claims on labels. Additionally, the legislator strictly forbids any aging claim due to the fact that there is only an organoleptic test performed to the product. In fact, the only way to determine a precise age is actually with a Carbon 13 test.


The barrels used for ageing the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Oil are stored in attics in which the temperature and different seasons determine the speed of fermentation. In the cold winter months, the process of fermentation is slow and with the heat and humidity of the summer months the fermentation process speeds up and causes a natural concentration of the grapes by evaporation. Each barrel actually absorbs some of its content, allowing for the aroma of each particular wood.


After a minimum of 12 years (again, according to the Solera system, so in reality it is really the age of the barrel and not of its content) the result is a very sweet, thick, rich, and complex vinegar. The producer can submit the product to a panel of Master Tasters within the Consortium of Producers of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (CPABTM).


This panel of master tasters only performs an organoleptic evaluation on the color, viscosity, taste, flavor and aroma. If the product scores more than 250 points the producer is given the opportunity to bring the product to the Consortium who actually fills the bottle for all their associates, so the product is packed by the Consortium and not by the individual producer.


By law, the product may only be bottled in a unique 100ml bottle. This particular bottle is the same for all the producers. This is an important step in controlling and guaranteeing the quality of the product.


Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is produced in 2 distinctive qualities, being the Red Seal (one that is aged for a minimum of 12 years) and the Gold Seal (one that is aged for a minimum of 25 years). Not to be said, Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP is a very expensive vinegar; it easy retails for $ 100 for 100ml (3oz).


The price is explained by the high cost of the barrels. Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Oil  barrels are usually more expensive than wine barrels because they are made of a thicker wood since they need to sustain the acidity of the content.


A set of empty barrels (batteria) easily costs around 8‐10 thousand USD and the cost of the raw materials are high because one loses around 30% of the original must throughout the cooking process. It is also explained by the length of time one needs to wait before actually selling the product: it takes a minimum of 12 years to be able to produce about 1 gallon per year of vinegar.


Since they couldn’t really sell such an expensive and scarcely available product, few stores in Modena (Fini and Giusti) started the practice of blending Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena with strong, aged, red wine vinegar.


The product they created is not as thick (easier to use), and less expensive product (wine vinegar is not expensive) but has the same types of organoleptic features as traditional (so, somehow sweeter, denser and more complex than regular wine vinegar).


This process originated what is very popular and sold today in more than 60 Countries (it’s among the first 5 Italian food products naturally recalled by Chefs all around the world): BALSAMIC VINEGAR OF MODENA PGI.


Balsamic Vinegar of Modena P.G.I.


This product is obtained by the blending and consequent fermentation of must (either cooked or concentrated) with wine vinegar. The addition of less than 2% of caramel color is also comprised by the law which is a natural product and is used to uniform and keep a consistent color.


The concentrated grape must is a vacuum process with low temperature that produces a low flavor profile with a sweet and fruity taste at a lower cost. The cooked grape must is under direct fire, burning sugars and creating a high flavor profile, full body at a higher cost (same type as used for Traditional).


Even though many claim not to, it is critical to understand that ALL producers use caramel coloring. It is simple to understand this due to the fact that the color of the vinegar is always the same year after year, despite the obvious difference in characteristics from one harvest to the next.


The concentrated or cooked must is a blend of the 2 and is mixed with wine vinegar that creates a mass which is then fermented and aged. It is the quality of the must along with the wine vinegar in this primary blend that is important to the quality of the final product.


The quality and quantity of these ingredients can be measured by a simple lab analysis that measures the density, dried extracts, and dried extracts without sugars.

The quality of the final product is more the result of the blend of ingredients rather than the mere ageing of them. Because of this blending and due to the different quality levels of each individual harvest, exact ageing claims can’t be proven and the Italian government forbids ageing from appearing on labels.


Basically, the goal for a Balsamic Vinegar of Modena producer is to offer their clients a steady and consistent quality (taste, aroma, and flavor profile). Since each grape harvest is vitally different, the vinegar oil maker needs to blend and age different qualities for different amounts of time in order to obtain this consistency of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI.


The quality of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI is determined by two main factors: Quality of Ingredients and Ageing. Within the same category, there may be substantial differences in quality and the degree of concentration which is a key factor in determining the quality of the final product.


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6 Health Benefits of Balsamic Oil

6 Health Benefits of Balsamic Vinegar Oil | Balsamic Oil

What is Balsamic Vinegar Oil?  Balsamic Vinegar Oil is a reduction made from grapes, but isn’t considered a wine vinegar because the grape juice used is unfermented. The unfermented white sweet grape juice that is used is called ‘must’ and comes from the Trebbiano grapes.


Originated from Italy, this condiment is an aromatic, thick, dark, syrup-like aged type of vinegar, prepared by the reduction of cooked grapes. The grapes are usually pressed, with the fermentation process being hindered.


The best Balsamic Vinegar Oil is prepared in the hills of Modena, in Italy, where unique and flavorful balsamic vinegar is formed. This vinegar is known to be a cut above the other types of vinegar. Unlike the sharp taste of vinegar, balsamic vinegar has a rich, sweet flavor. You need to really taste it to believe it!


Today Balsamic Vinegar Oil is one of the most popular condiments available in American grocery stores and is used in various sauces, marinades, salad dressings, dips, desserts, etc.


The popularity surge of this dark, syrup-like condiment is not only because of its amazing taste, but also because Balsamic Vinegar Oil’s health benefits play a major role in adding points to the popularity chart.

Balsamic Vinegar Oil retains most of the nutrients present the parent grapes and comprises nutrients such as:


  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • And Magnesium…


…All in adequate amounts. As a result, incorporating Balsamic Vinegar Oil in your daily diet will benefit you immensely.


Health Benefits of Balsamic Vinegar Oil


Balsamic Vinegar Oil has so many incredible health benefits. Some of these include:


  • Risks of heart diseases
  • Cancer and other infectious diseases
  • Decelerating the aging process
  • Controlling diabetes
  • Assisting in digestion
  • And much more…

Let’s have a more in depth look at the different Balsamic Vinegar Oil health benefits.  


#1: Balsamic Vinegar Oil Helps with: Antioxidant Properties

6 Health Benefits of Balsamic Vinegar Oil

Free radicals damage cell membranes and manifest themselves in terms of premature aging, hardening of arterial walls and cancer.  Oxidation reactions taking place in the human body to produce energy, conduce to formation of cell damaging free radicals as natural by-products.


Antioxidants from Balsamic Vinegar Oil destroy these free radicals and prevent cells from being eradicated


#2: Balsamic Vinegar Oil Helps: Fight Cancer

6 Health Benefits of Balsamic Vinegar Oil

The grapes from which balsamic vinegar is formed is known to contain a bioflavonoid called quercetin, which has antioxidant properties. Along with vitamin C, this antioxidant strengthens the immune system to fight cancer and other infectious diseases and inflammations.


Balsamic Vinegar Oil contains polyphenols which are anticancer agents.


#3: Balsamic Vinegar Oil Helps: Reduce Risks of Heart Attacks

6 Health Benefits of Balsamic Oil

Balsamic Vinegar Oil is low in saturated fat and is believed to reduce cholesterol. Additionally, since it is low in sodium, it enhances heart health and reduces high blood pressure.


#4: Balsamic Vinegar Oil Helps: Control Diabetes

6 Health Benefits of Balsamic Oil

Research reveals that consumption of at least 5 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar a day enhances insulin sensitivity. The greater the insulin sensitivity, the better the diabetes control.


#5: Balsamic Vinegar Oil is a Natural Pain Reliever

In ancient times, folk healers used Balsamic Vinegar Oil to relieve people of their body pain. Furthermore, they also used Balsamic Vinegar Oil to treat wounds and infections.


The antibacterial and antiviral properties in the Balsamic Vinegar Oil help heal wounds.


#6: Balsamic Vinegar Oil Assists Digestion

The polyphenols in balsamic vinegar stimulate the activity of pepsin enzyme in the body. Pepsin is a digestive enzyme, which helps break proteins into smaller units (amino acids).


Furthermore, these polyphenols also assist the intestine in absorbing amino acids expeditiously. Efficient amino acid absorption enables the body to utilize it for cell building, repair and other body maintenance work.


Balsamic Vinegar Oil aids in the digestion process.


Other key health benefits of balsamic vinegar oil

6 Health Benefits of Balsamic Oil

Besides these many incredible health benefits of Balsamic Vinegar Oil, this vinegar also:


  • Reduces the frequency of headache inceptions
  • Strengthens bones (calcium absorption)
  • Energizes the body
  • Slows down aging process
  • Prevents anemia
  • And helps in weight loss by suppressing one’s appetite.

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5 Ways to Use Balsamic Vinegar Daily (Other Than With Salad Dressing!)

What is Balsamic Vinegar Anyway?

Balsamic Vinegar | Balsamic Oil

Balsamic Vinegar is a reduction made from grapes, but it is not considered a wine vinegar because the grape juice used is unfermented. The unfermented white sweet grape juice that is used is called “must” and comes from Trebbiano grapes.

First, the grape juice is cooked slowly in a copper cauldron until it is reduced by 35 to 50 per cent. Then, the reduction is placed (along with a bit of already-aged vinegar to get the process started) into oak barrels to age.

Each year, part of the vinegar evaporates, and the vinegar is transferred into a smaller barrel made of a different wood (chestnut, cherry, juniper, mulberry, cacia, and ash are commonly used). Each individual wood used infuses a different flavor into the vinegar, making it more complex, distinct and interesting. And as the vinegar ages and becomes concentrated, it becomes thick, sweet and dark….just the way it should be.

This process originated in the northern Italian city of Modena. If Balsamic Vinegar is made following the standards of Modena (which includes each type of wood barrel) and passes a rigorous and extensive taste test, it may be deemed Tradizionale di Modena.

Reggio-Emilia is another Italian city where traditional balsamic vinegar is made (vinegars made here would be called tradizionale di Reggio-Emilia). These vinegars are very expensive and are amazing for flavoring meat, as a dip for strawberries, and even as a flavoring for a sweet beverage. Some desserts, including panna cotta, crème caramel and zabaglione, may call for this vinegar.

You might be more familiar with a more commercial version of Balsamic Vinegar, which has a much shorter aging process. Often, some of the traditional barrels are skipped (and in many cases, only oak is used). This vinegar is a great for using in salad dressings, marinades, sauces, and pastas.

How Can I Use Balsamic Vinegar In My Cooking?


There are three basic age groups of Balsamic Vinegar, and each is used differently:

  • The youngest group, 3 to 5 years, is great for salad dressings, dipping sauces for vegetables and bread, sauces and marinades.
  • The middle age group, 6 to 11 years, is usually thicker and is quite versatile. Use it in sauces (at the end of cooking), in risotto and pasta dishes, in marinades and mixed with mayonnaise or sour cream for a sandwich condiment.
  • Well-aged Balsamic Vinegar (12 to 150+ years) is best used after the cooking is finished, and in otherwise mild dishes (nothing spicy or heavily seasoned), so it can shine on its own. Use it to flavor meat like chicken, steak, fish or veal. It is well-suited to fruit and cheese pairings, such as strawberries, peaches and pears, along with ricotta or feta cheese. It may also be enjoyed by itself (just a tiny amount) or added to water for a refreshing beverage.

Recommend Any Good Recipes to Cook with Balsamic Vinegar?


If the only time you think of pulling that jar of balsamic out of the cupboard is when it’s time to make a salad, you’re missing out. Here are few incredible ways to cook with Balsamic Vinegar.


  • To Finish Soups and Sauces: Balsamic Vinegar and ripe summer tomatoes have a well-known affinity for one another. From that simple summer salad, it’s not too hard to make the leap to tomato-based soups and sauces. Add a splash of Balsamic Vinegar to these dishes at the very end of cooking to bring the flavors together.


  • In Braised Dishes: While Balsamic Vinegar added at the end of cooking adds a splash of brightness, using even a little Balsamic Vinegar as part of the liquid in a braise gives the whole dish a deep, rich, slightly sweet flavor.


  • Reduced to A Syrup: Balsamic Vinegar syrup drizzled over a scoop of vanilla ice cream is amazing! Especially if strawberries are involved. If you have a very good old Balsamic Vinegar, then reducing it is often not necessary. But if you’re working with a basic Balsamic Vinegar, throw a cup or so in a small saucepan with some sugar. A stick of cinnamon can also be nice. Let it reduce until syrupy, then chill before using.


  • For Marinating Meat and Tofu: With some sliced shallots and a dollop of mustard, balsamic is an awesome vinegar to use for marinating. It’s great with steak and other read meats, but it can also be used for tofu and large portabella mushrooms.


  • In Soda and Cocktails: Given its sweet character, Balsamic Vinegar has a very similar flavor profile to soda’s and cocktails. You can dilute Balsamic Vinegar in soda water for a very grown-up fizzy drink — try this recipe for a Strawberry Balsamic Soda! In cocktails, you can use Balsamic Vinegar mixed with liquors like bourbon and rye.  

What’s the Best Kind of Balsamic Vinegar to Get?


If you want the thick, sweet, complex Tradizionale, look for a label that has the phrase Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, which is a term applied only to the best Balsamic Vinegar. Expect to pay a decent amount for this vinegar. You will only use it in drops, so it will last a while.

Condimiento vinegars will also be high-quality, as they are made in the same way as the tradizionale, though they may be produced outside Modena.

If you are looking for a more accessible balsamic, check the ingredients to make sure no sugar is added. Often, low-quality vinegar is bitter, and brown sugar may be added to help mask its inferiority.

True Balsamic Vinegar only has one ingredient: ‘must’. You may also note the age of the vinegar, if the bottle is labeled with this information. In general, more aged Balsamic Vinegar is better.

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