Let’s find out what it is that makes Original Balsamic Vinegar so expensive and precious.
Balsamic vinegar from Modena is one of the most expensive food products we can find on the market. The three main and most sought after products, after balsamic vinegars, are the DOP of Modena, the DOP of Reggio Emilia, and the IGP of Modena.
In particular, the most expensive we can find on the market is the traditional DOP balsamic vinegar.
It gained the nickname “black gold” for its quality and refinement and the best palates in the world compete for it. The long processing time and the certification of the raw materials with which it is produced are the main requirements that allow it to be sold at a high price. Let’s see in detail how it is produced and what are the distinctive characteristics of this jewel of Italian cuisine.
Quality and origin of raw materials in the production of Balsamic Vinegar
If we have IGP and DOP balsamic vinegar of Modena on our tables, we need to know that they are not identical and that they are characterized by different raw materials and treated with specific precautions that differentiate them.
One characteristic, however, is that all these vinegars have one thing in common. The grape musts come from the hills of the provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia, where the particular climate makes it possible to produce grapes of the highest quality and goodness.
The IGP product is composed of cooked grape must, wine vinegar and a percentage of caramel that must not exceed 2%. It is a cheaper product and it is present in greater quantities than Traditional DOP Balsamic Vinegar.
The DOP vinegar of Modena and Reggio Emilia is instead 100% produced from cooked grape must from Lambruschi, Sangiovese, Trebbiani, Albana, Ancellotta, Fortana and Montuni. Being produced on a smaller scale, the price of this goodness is also higher.
Ageing gives value to Balsamic vinegar
Another characteristic that allows us to understand the quality and value of a balsamic vinegar is by how much and how it has aged. By law, a IGP vinegar from Modena must age for at least 60 days. If the ageing period is longer than 3 years in wooden barrels, this balsamic vinegar IGP can be defined as “aged”, therefore it is more valuable.
Traditional DOP Vinegar of Modena and Reggio Emilia must age for a minimum of 12 years and must be stored in barrels of various types of wood predefined and regulated by the regulations. The most precious products are aged for up to 25 years; they are the most sought after and the most expensive. It is the classic example where the price of the product reflects its quality. The maturation of DOP products is also different.
The ageing takes place strictly in wooden barrels that rest in the cellars in Emilia Romagna. In this way the product absorbs all the aromas of the wood through the osmosis process and giving the balsamic vinegar that unmistakable taste and smell. A IGP product that has been in an industrial steel barrel could never give all those olfactory and taste sensations that are essential for an enthusiast. One of the best woods used to age our DOP vinegar is oak. The aroma given to vinegar is something extraordinary.
The certification process for product protection
In order to protect and guarantee the quality of balsamic vinegars, three consortia have been set up to guarantee the consistent use of raw materials and rigorous processing methods. The consortia oversee the product under their own responsibility. They are: Consorzio Tutela Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, Consorzio Tutela Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP and Consorzio Tutela Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia. These consortia are made up of expert tasters certified by the Chamber of Commerce of Modena and Reggio Emilia and are responsible for monitoring the authenticity of these condiments.
Every characteristic that deals with the sense of smell, taste or sight is analysed in detail and must pass rigorous testing before the product is marketed. A low-quality product would certainly not pass the scrutiny of these scrupulous experts, who are specifically trained to guarantee the genuineness and quality of this Italian gastronomic excellence.
As we have seen, there are precise and distinct characteristics that make a Traditional DOP Vinegar of Modena more expensive. If you want to have the best taste and quality on your table, you must be willing to pay the right price.
A IGP product has a lower price than the traditional DOP but it can still have a fairly wide price range: usually low quality products correspond to a low price; for the most valuable ones you have to spend at least twenty euros per unit, paying attention to what is written on the ingredients label and their order of listing. Among the latter we can certainly find the “aged” products, that is, products that have been aged for at least 3 years.
A true quality balsamic vinegar is sold at a price that reflects its value, something a low-quality vinegar can never have.