Aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena
- colour: bright dark brown;
- consistency: like a runny syrup
- aroma: characteristic, fragrant and, altogether, well-formed, penetrating and persistent bouquet with a noticeable but pleasant and harmonious acidity;
- flavour: characteristic of balsamic vinegar, in line with an unchanging centuries-old tradition; sweet and sour and well balanced, with appreciable acidity and a hint of aroma imparted by the wood used for the vats; strong, clear, full, velvety, intense and persistent, in keeping with its characteristic bouquet;
- total acidity: 4.5o or more (expressed in grams of acetic acid per 100 g of product);
- density at 20o C: 1.240 or more
The product is made from grape musts. Bottling, in which the product is put in unique round crystalline white glass containers with a rectangular base made of solid glass, takes place in the province of Modena.
There are many historical references to Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena.
The earliest official record in which "balsamic" appears alongside the word "vinegar" dates back to the 18th century: a register of wine harvests and sales of the secret ducal cellars for 1747 (Official records, Modena) although, judging from accounts of the court of the Duke of Modena, Alfonso I d'Este (husband of Lucrezia Borgia), the tradition of producing a very special balsamic vinegar in the area comprising the province of Modena must go back to 1508 at least.
Documents dating back to the 16th century and to 1796 refer to very mature musts which were used in the production of Modena style balsamic vinegar and to stays for 36 barrels of the product in question which were kept in a tower of the Duke's Palace. A recurring feature of these early texts on the production of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena are the references to the basic ingredient, cooked must obtained from typical grapes grown in the province of Modena, and the fact that production takes place several floors up, normally under the roof.
The first consolidated version of the rules governing the production of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena is to be found in a letter sent by Francesco Aggazzotti to Pio Fabriani in 1860. From that point onwards the references to the product become more and more numerous and official as trade in the product develops: 1863 Agricultural Exhibition in Modena; 1888 Emilia Fair in Bologna; a brochure describing balsamic vinegar as a Modena speciality made from selected grapes.
All this confirms that since time immemorial the province of Modena has produced a special type of vinegar, not found in other areas, whose methods of production and ageing have been handed down almost unchanged over the centuries and are now laid down in the rules governing the production of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena.
To guarantee the traceability of the product the raw material, i.e. the must, comes from grapes produced by vineyards consisting wholly or partly of varieties of vines listed in the rules of production or designated for the production of Modena province quality wines psr.
Before being released for consumption every batch must pass a series of analytical and organoleptic tests.
After bottling a numbered non-reusable label must be placed on each bottle in such a way as to prevent anyone from removing any of the contents without tearing it.
Grapes intended for the production of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena have to produce a must with a saccharometer reading of 15o or more, and the maximum production, in the case of viticulture-only holdings, must not exceed 160 quintals per hectare, with a maximum yield in terms of must of 70 %.
Must intended for the production of the DOP [[balsamic vinegar]] is cooked at atmospheric pressure in open containers. Cooking, using a direct source of heat, must last for 30 minutes at least while maintaining a temperature of 80o or more.
Blended musts or musts containing additives or substances may not be used.
After cooking, the must undergoes sugar and acetic fermentation in traditional vinegar production rooms, using traditional methods which provide the necessary ventilation and range of natural temperatures.
At least 12 years are needed for the optimum maturation, ageing and after care of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. As part of the process the cooked must is decanted several times into numbered and marked vats of different sizes made of wood that is typical of the Region, e.g. oak, juniper, cherry, mulberry and chestnut.
When, in the opinion of the producer, the product satisfies the minimum requirements set out in the rules governing production it has to pass a series of analytical and organoleptic tests before being put in special round bottles made of white crystalline glass with a square base and a capacity of 10-40 cl.
Ageing, aftercare and bottling must all be carried out in the province of Modena.
Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena is the product of a slow process of transformation of a unique raw material: must produced from grapes of vine varieties traditionally grown in the province of Modena and cooked using a direct source of heat.
Maturation is a lengthy process, lasting 12 years at least, and does not involve the use of any substance other than cooked must or any physical or chemical process.
Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena is one of the most important typical and traditional foodstuffs of the Modena area; its characteristics and the fact that the quantities produced are fairly limited, have helped to forge the economic success and reputation of the product at home and abroad.
The close links between the product and the local conditions in terms of soil and climate are confirmed and underpinned by the ban on accelerated and/or artificial ageing techniques, including those based on induced changes in temperature, humidity and ventilation in the vinegar production rooms.
The fact that the raw material comes solely from Modena province vineyards that produce quality wines psr precludes the possibility of the characteristics of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena being reproduced anywhere else than in that area.
Reference: The European Commission