How To Select A Balsamic Vinegar From Modena

How To Select A Balsamic Vinegar From Modena

The Main Characteristics of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and How to Choose It

If you've come to this page, it's probably because the vast selection of balsamic vinegars with different prices confuses you, and you need to understand the differences better. There is no perfect product that pleases everyone; the choice is always personal. We Modenese have clear ideas: we only use Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO for our dishes, often produced by friends in their home attics. Discussions about which is the best balsamic vinegar are still open, and there are evenings organized by enthusiasts to debate the topic. The only certified official tasting commission works at the Chamber of Commerce of Modena for Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO, using a standard scoring sheet. However, this article's purpose is not to go into the details of this methodology.

The Main Product Categories

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO
This is the true and original product of Modenese tradition, produced in the attics of many families. The only ingredient is cooked must, obtained from the typical direct-fire boilers at atmospheric pressure, using exclusively the typical grapes of the province of Modena. It must age for at least 12 years in batteries of small barrels made from different woods. The bottle is obligatorily 100 ml, the same for all producers; it is possible to personalize the label and the box. The quality is guaranteed by the tasting commission, which also makes it the most expensive product.

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Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP
This product arises from Modenese tradition, but often faster ways were sought for consumption, such as mixing a not yet ready Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO with wine vinegar. In summary, it is the union of wine vinegar with cooked must. The aging is reduced to a few months.

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The Condiments
These products follow traditions not regulated by production standards. Among the condiments, we find creams or glazes, white condiments, saba, and products derived from apples, like our apple condiment. You must have understood by now that the best product is Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO, but not everyone can afford it. Moreover, not everyone likes it; I've seen people prefer other products without knowing the prices.

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Aging is an important parameter, but the oldest product is not always the best. What matters more is how the product is made and the quality of the grapes used. Additionally, the law prohibits indicating aging on the label or marketing material for various reasons. A good balsamic vinegar is always a mix of different products and aging periods.

The Ingredients on the Label

Ingredients are always clearly indicated on the label and can be a great help in understanding the quality of a product without having to taste it. The order of the ingredients is important; they are listed by quantity in weight. For condiments made from grapes and Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP, the main ingredients are: cooked must, concentrated must, wine vinegar, caramel. In creams, we also find starches (e.g., corn) or gums (like xanthan) to thicken the product. In cheaper products, ingredients like glucose or fructose are also found.

Evaluating Ingredients to Understand Quality

The product chosen by Modenese people is Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO, obtained only from cooked must, the noblest ingredient. Concentrated must is more economical than cooked must. Wine vinegar gives acidity and is the cheapest. Caramel is used to give color and is only found in the cheapest products. The ingredients, listed from the noblest to the most economical, are:
1. Cooked must
2. Concentrated must
3. Wine vinegar
4. Caramel
5. Thickeners (starch or gum)
6. Sugars (fructose, glucose, etc.)

Are Sulfites an Ingredient?

Sulfites are a very commonly used preservative and may be found among the ingredients if deliberately added. Balsamic vinegar continues to change even in the bottle. Sulfites are considered allergens, and some people are sensitive to them. If they are indicated at the end of the ingredient list with the phrase "contains sulfites," they are present in small quantities and are due to the natural presence in grapes. If, however, they are among the first ingredients, the product is of lower quality.


Density is an easy parameter to evaluate even with the bottle closed. A denser product contains more sugars (from the grapes) and is generally sweeter. Aging naturally leads to water evaporation and sugar concentration. However, there are also different concentration techniques, so a denser product is not necessarily older.

Are Organic and Biodynamic Products Synonymous with Higher Quality?

Organic products have generally been of higher quality, but industrialization has lowered the average quality. Biodynamic products, however, are still produced by quality companies and generally guarantee superior quality. The production regulations do not allow industrial practices, making biodynamic synonymous with higher quality, while organic is less so.

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