If you live in New York or will be in the city in the week of November 1st to 7th, you should book now at one of the 22 restaurants that will participate in the first annual Original Balsamic Week. The Consortium for the Protection of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, in partnership with All About Italy, will lead New Yorkers on a unique experience aimed at discovering Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and its characteristics. The chefs of the partner restaurants will prepare recipes that feature Aceto Balsamico di Modena as the main ingredient. Throughout the week the dishes will be included in their menus. You just have to book. Where? Click on the link below to discover the restaurants that will participate in the Original Balsamic Week.
The Original Balsamic Week is part of the project “Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, the Original”, focused on the US market and financed by the European Union, to promote the added value of the Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, in terms of authenticity, safety, traceability, and labeling guaranteed by the European trademark protection.
Symbol of gastronomic quality for the two Emilian provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia, the Aceto Balsamico di Modena PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) is an integral part of the Italian and European culinary tradition. A versatile and intriguing ingredient, it brings to the dining table the taste of a centuries-old history and a production process which is truly authentic.
Modena and Reggio Emilia rise in the valley of Emilia Romagna, on the scenic trail that goes along the riverbed of the Po and crosses the basins of two other rivers, namely the Secchia and the Panaro. A land which stemmed from the ancient Duchy of Este; heritage of one of the European ruling families that has reigned for the longest period of time.
The soul of this land is divided between history, nature and a great culinary tradition. Much is owed to the Este dynasty in terms of this territory’s cultural and artistic vibrancy.
In fact, together with the ancient knowledge passed on unchanged for centuries by the farmers of the area, the dynasty has given rise to an innate passion for good living and for eating well. Such aspects – together with the territory’s specific characteristics – have fostered the coming to be of an exclusive and time-honored product which is a true icon of taste: the Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, better known as the Italian Aceto Balsamico di Modena.
Today, product specifications describe its properties, production process and methods of presentation. These stipulate that the assembling of raw materials, the processing, the maturation and/or aging in precious wooden containers must take place within the provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia. This is because the Aceto Balsamico di Modena’s very existence is inextricably linked to the knowledge, traditions and skills of the local populations, as well as to a unique territory that has all the characteristics for its maturation and ageing.
The climate in the lands surrounding Modena and Reggio Emilia is a typical semi-continental one, mitigated by the influence of the nearby Adriatic Sea. Winters are harsh, summers are hot and humid, springs and
autumns are decidedly mild. These weather conditions foster the growth of the indigenous acetic flora, which strongly influences the maturation and aging process of the Aceto Balsamico di Modena, made from cooked and/or concentrated grape musts. The grapes used are exclusively from Lambrusco, Sangiovese, Trebbiano, Albana, Ancellotta, Fortana and Montuni vines. Only seven grape varieties, typical of the region. An amount of
at least 10% of wine vinegar is then added to the must, in addition to a percentage of vinegar that must be at least 10 years old. The amount of grape must needs to be at least 20% of the blend.
HOW AN ICON OF TASTE COMES TO BE
The Aceto Balsamico di Modena’s processing takes place with the traditional method of acetification, by means of selected bacterial colonies or with the lenta in superficie (slow surface) or lenta a truciolo (slow wood shavings) methods; what follows is the refining phase. Both phases take place within barrels, casks or vats made of fine wood such as Durmast, Chestnut, Oak, Mulberry and Juniper. The maturation period lasts for at least 60 days, as from the moment in which the raw materials, which will have been mixed together in the given quantities, begin to be processed. Once the maturation period has been brought to completion, a group of expert technicians and tasters carries out analytic and organoleptic tests on the resulting product, and only the product which successfully passes such tests is then certified as Aceto Balsamico di Modena.
After maturation, the ageing phase begins. Should this further phase last more than three years, the finished
product may then be classified as “aged.”
The packaging will be labeled Aceto Balsamico di Modena, together with the wording and logo of the Indicazione Geografica Protetta, that is Protected Geographical Indication.
RECOGNIZING THE AUTHENTIC ACETO BALSAMICO DI MODENA IN JUST 3 STEPS
There are three things one must look out for at the time of purchase. The first is the actual presence of the full name “Aceto Balsamico di Modena,” possibly accompanied by its translation into the language of the country it is sold in. The wrong name, or the presence of just some of the elements of the name, such as only the terms “balsamic” or “Modena,” do not indicate the authentic certified product.
Attention must also be paid to the necessary presence of the wording “Indicazione Geografica Protetta” or the acronym “IGP” in Italian (“Protected Geographical Indication” or the acronym “PGI” in English), or in the language of the country it is being sold in.
And one last thing to look out for, is the presence of the yellow and blue Protected Geographical Indication
logo; black and white labels are the only ones allowed to use the logo in the same colors.
THE ROOTS OF A CULINARY LEGEND
The cooking of the grape must is something which dates back to ancient Roman times. The so-called “sapum” was in fact used both as a medicine as well as a cooking ingredient, be it sweetener or dressing. The production of this very special vinegar has, however, been linked to Modena as from the 11th century, and over time, it has become synonymous with the culture and history of a territory that is unique in terms of characteristics as well as for the knowledge and talents of its people. In 1046 Holy Roman Emperor Henry III
was gifted with a “most perfect vinegar” by Marquis Bonifacio, father of Countess Matilde di Canossa. The occurrence was documented by abbot and historian Donizone, the countess’ biographer. It would appear in fact, that as the emperor was on his way to Rome for his coronation, he stopped off in the Po Valley and expressly asked Matilde’s father for “that vinegar which was made in the castle of Canossa and which had been so highly praised to him.” Bonifacio gifted it to him in a silver barrel. Thanks to the emperor’s appreciation, this precious condiment’s notoriety spread across all the counties and thereafter European Courts. Towards the end of the 13th century, the art of production of this uncommon vinegar was pursued at the Este court in Modena. It was not until 1747, however, that the word “balsamic” appeared in the records of the Dukes of Este’s cellars for the very first time. A few decades later in the 1800s, the Aceto Balsamico di Modena begins to be known and appreciated internationally; it in fact takes a prominent place at major exhibitions of the time, from Florence to Brussels. The 19th century is also a time in which the first dynasties of producers assert themselves, some of which, to this very day, continue to be members of the Consortium for Protection of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. In 1933 the Italian Minister of Agricolture recognized “centuries-old and distinctive industry of the Aceto Balsamico in the area of Modena.” Thirty years later in 1965, the first product specifications were published relating to the “Compositional characteristics and the preparation methods of the Aceto Balsamico di Modena.” Those products specifications, whose origins were in the methods handed down generation to generation, described the same methods still followed today. Another major step in the history of this exclusive and distinctive product – which has become a world ambassador for Italian good eating – is the Europeanwide recognition of 2009. In said year, in fact (and after a lengthy process), the European Commission finally entered the name Aceto Balsamico di Modena in the PGI production ledger.
Founded in 1993, the Consorzio Tutela Aceto Balsamico di Modena – the consortium for its protection – was
committed to registering the designation of Protected Geographical Indication since its very onset. It was
then obtained in July 2009.
The Consorzio Tutela is the custodian of the product specifications. It is a privileged representative and interlocutor in all matters concerning the product at a regulatory level. It is also its “voice,” in the sense that through dialoguing with the institutions, the media and the end consumers, it promotes the Aceto Balsamico di Modena and its culture.
Today the Consorzio Tutela brings together 51 companies. The Aceto Balsamico di Modena is exported to about 120 countries around the world; the legal protections in many of these countries is granted by international agreeements that recognize the role and importance of Geographical Indications. But this is not always the case. The prestige of this product – which is considered to be one of the ambassadors of the Made in Italy agri-food industry – is such that, it runs the risk of counterfeits. For this very reason it is of utmost importance for the supervisory and monitoring activities not to be interrupt, but rather further intensified.
The result is a product of great versatility, able to harmonize and balance in an extraordinary way the ingredients of the most varied preparations. Present on tables all over the world, in the kitchens of Michelin-starred chefs and those who every day seek taste and simplicity, the Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is a proud ambassador of its home territory. One of the most popular pairings with Aceto Balsamico di Modena is certainly that with Italian hard cheeses.
But a touch of Aceto Balsamico di Modena, may also be added to a finished dish, as it helps enhancing the flavor of the first courses of the Emilian tradition, such as Tortellini and egg pasta, but also risotto and velvety soups, and all the way to the most imaginative of pasta dishes.
On boiled meats, Frittatas or vegetable salads – be they raw or cooked – Aceto Balsamico di Modena becomes a pleasure. It is also very tasty when paired with fish dishes, from cod to a number of freshwater varieties.
Paired with fruit and spoon desserts, it is a refined and intense surprise, though there are also pairings which are more original and daring within cocktails, drinks and smoothies. Would you have ever thought of using the Black Gold of Modena to create a Bloody Mary?