Balsamic vinegar is one of those Italian creations that has earned a great reputation around the world. No surprise that such a unique ingredient comes from the country that created pasta, pizza, some of the best wines, and a variety of dishes that are appreciated everywhere.
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But, let’s take a step back. Where does balsamic vinegar come from? What’s the story behind this unique ingredient commonly called black gold?
The history of the balsamic vinegar of Modena
To start we need to understand how balsamic vinegar is made. Briefly, the steps include the cooking and fermentation of certain local varieties of grapes, consequently mixed and then aged with the goal of obtaining a perfect acidity level. The final steps include bottling and certifying the product as an original balsamic vinegar (either with the denominations IGP or DOP depending on certain aspects of the production process).
The process we just resumed in one paragraph is full of details and particularities that make balsamic vinegar a unique ingredient.
So, how did we get here?
There are records that show that the production of grape must was already known among the ancient Romans, sometimes as medical aids, sometimes as condiments.
An interesting aspect of the history of balsamic vinegar is that its production and use were for a long time very restricted to a region that is today known as the province of Modena. The first clear record seems to be from the year 1046 when a bottle of this dark gold was gifted to Enrico III, emperor of the Roman Empire, while passing through this region.
Production of balsamic vinegar transformed throughout the years, and by the 13th century, though mostly towards the 1500s, we see the birth of the acetaias, where balsamic vinegar was made. Some experiments in the medical side and also in cooking were made during those years and some records show different uses the original creators of this ingredient were doing.
Truly, it is not until 1747 that balsamic vinegar appears in the official registers controlled and taxed by the Duque, at that time very much under the same category as wines.
After the turn of the century, in the 1800s, balsamic vinegar made its way to other parts of Italy, and most importantly the world. And that changed everything. Balsamic vinegar had become a precious ingredient now in kitchens around Europe.
Obtaining the recognition balsamic vinegar deserves
By the beginning of the 20th century, balsamic vinegar producers were a consolidated force that based their principles in family, tradition, and quality.
It wasn’t until 1993 that producers got together to create the Consorzio Aceto Balsamico di Modena, in order to get the recognition of IGP, a denomination that supervises the standards of the production process, guaranteeing the quality of the final product. They finally were awarded such a denomination in 2009.
The particularities of the region of Modena and Reggio Emilia are fundamentals in the process that leads to balsamic vinegar having its unique flavors, intense perfumes, and enchanting texture. The weather, the humidity, and the minerals carried by the wind, it all makes it very special and play a role in the quality of the final product that we can find on a supermarket shelf.
Balsamic vinegar has a long story of committed producers, delighted customers, and, overall, love for the land, respect for traditions, and strong family principles. There is no doubt, however surprising, all of these aspects play a role in the excellence of the balsamic vinegar we have access to today.