Balsamic Vinegar oil of Modena, a unique vinegar oil, is a product that has its roots in ancient Roman times. Instead of using wine as other Italian vinegars the item is made by cooking the grape juice, also known as the "has to".
There are many types of Balsamic Vinegar Oils. Unfortunately, they can be misleading in some cases.
These misconceptions have created confusion for consumers and traders. This article will clarify the differences between Balsamic Vinegar types and their production processes.
Two distinct recipes were developed during history and led to the creation of two regulated products: Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IOP (Protected Designation of Origin).
These two recipes have been approved and regulated by the Italian authorities as well as the European Union.
Modena Traditional Balsamic Vinegar DOP
What is Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Oil from Modena?
Modena's Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Oil is a special vinegar made from the juices of the grapes. This must is then cooked over an immediate fire for hours to produce a brown syrupy liquid with a wonderful grape aroma (called cooked should). After the Solera System, this cooked should is aged in wooden barrels for at least 12 years.
These barrels are made from a premium selection of woods, including cherry, chestnut oak, oak, mulberry and ash. They each have different capacities. The first barrel holds approximately 40 gallons while the last barrel holds approximately 2 gallons. There are usually 5-7 to 9 barrel collections. This is known as "batteria".
Solera, also known by the 'topping up', requires the constant (everyyear) and subsequent topping up of cooked must into the next smaller container so that each year the 'newest' cooked grape should be mixed with the one from previous years.
It is important to realize that the product is always a mixture of previous harvests. This explains why the Italian legislator forbids any claims about aging on labels. The legislator also forbids any aging claims due to the simple organoleptic testing that is performed in the product. A Carbon 13 test is the only way to establish a specific age.
The barrels that are used to age the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Oil are kept in attics. Here, the temperature and the seasons affect the speed of fermentation. The fermentation process is slower in winter, but speeds up when there's heat and humidity during summer. This allows for natural grape concentration through evaporation. Each barrel absorbs some of the material it contains, which allows for the unique wood aroma.
The vinegar is very rich and complex, with a pleasant flavor. It can be aged for a minimum of 12 year (according to the Solera system so it is actually the age of the barrel, not its own material). The manufacturer may submit the product for review by a panel of master tasters from the Consortium of Producers of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.
The panel of master tasters performs only an organoleptic assessment on the product's color, viscosity and taste. They also taste, smell, flavor, and aroma. If the product scores above 250 points, the manufacturer can request to be allowed to ship the product to the Consortium. The Consortium fills the bottles for their associates and the item is packaged by the Consortium.
The law states that the product can only be bottled in a 100ml bottle that is unique. This particular jar is used by all producers. This is an important step to control and ensure the quality of the product.
The Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Modena comes in two distinct qualities: the Red Seal, which is aged for at least 12 years, and the Gold Seal, which is aged for at least 25 years. It is worth noting that Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (DOP) is a very expensive vinegar. It retails for $100 per 100ml (3oz).
Barrel prices are high, which explains why the barrels cost so much. Balsamic Vinegar Oil barrels made from traditional Balsamic Vinegar Oil are typically more expensive than wine barrels. This is because they are made out of thicker wood, which will be required to maintain the acidity.
A set of empty barrels, or batterias, can easily fetch between 8-10 thousand dollars and the price of raw materials is high because you lose around 30% of what you used during the cooking process. This is due to the fact that it takes at least 12 years to produce about one gallon of vinegar each year.
They couldn't sell this expensive solution so Modena's few shops (Fini, Giusti) began to mix Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Modena with strong, aged red wine vinegar.
They created merchandise that is less thick, easier to use, and less expensive than traditional wine vinegar. However, it has the same organoleptic characteristics as regular (so, somehow rancider, denser, and more complex than regular wine vinegar).
This is how the original BALSAMIC VINEGAR of MODENA PGI was created.
Balsamic Vinegar from Modena P.G.I.
This product is made by the blending of wine vinegar with must. Law allows for less than 2% caramel color to be added. This is a natural product that is used to maintain uniform color.
Concentrated grape must is made by vacuuming at low temperatures. It has a fruity and sweet flavor with a lower price. The cooked grape must is immediately roasted to remove sugars. This creates a full flavor profile and a rich body for a higher price than the Traditional.
Although many producers claim they don't, it is important to know that all producers use caramel coloring. This is because the vinegar's color is the same every year regardless of any differences in the characteristics.
The concentrated or cooked muss is a mixture of both the two and is combined with wine vinegar to create a mass which is fermented and aged. The quality of the final product is determined by the quality of both the wine vinegar and the need to.
A simple lab analysis can measure the quality and quantity these ingredients by measuring their density, dried extracts and dried extracts without sugars.
The quality of the final product depends more on the combination of ingredients than their ageing. This blending, and the differing quality levels of each harvest means that exact ageing claims cannot be made. The Italian authorities prohibit ageing from appearing on labels.
The goal of a Balsamic Vinegar of Modena producer is to provide consistent quality (taste and aroma) for their customers. Each grape harvest is unique so the vinegar oil maker must blend different quality grapes for different amounts of age in order to achieve this consistency of Balsamic Vinegar Modena PGI.
Two main factors determine the quality of Balsamic Vinegar Modena PGI: Ageing and Quality of Ingredients. There may be significant differences in the quality and concentration of ingredients within the same category. This is an important factor in determining final product quality.