Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale (or Traditional Balsamic Vinegar) is a type of balsamic vinegar from Modena and the wider Emilia Romagna region of Italy. Traditional Balsamic Vinegar (TBV) is produced from cooked grape must. It ages at least 12 years. And it is protected under the European Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) system. This is also the reason why it fetches higher prices.
This is not the case for inexpensive “Balsamic Vinegar of Modena” (BVM). BVM has lesser protection under the European Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) system. Although the names are similar, TBV and the inexpensive imitation BVM are very different.
History of Balsamico
The term balsamico derives from the Latin word “balsamum” and from the Greek word “βάλσαμον”. The words mean “restorative” or “curative”. The art of cooking the must of grapes dates back to the ancient Romans. Romans used it both as a medicine and in the kitchen as a sweetener and condiment.
A letter written in 1862 contains the oldest and most detailed description of the method and techniques for the production of balsamic vinegar . Francesco Aggazzotti wrote to his friend Pio Fabriani, describing the secrets of his family’s “acetaia” (the vinegar-cellar where balsamic vinegar is made).
The monk Donizo of Canossa wrote a poem in the 12th century about a precious vinegar in the area of Modena and Reggio Emilia. There is no mention of the word “balsamic”, however.
Production and price of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale
The first testimonies clearly speaking about “balsamic vinegar”, as well as of recipes and making procedure, appear from the 19th century. But we know little about the original recipes and related production practices.
The adjective “balsamic” designates any kind of generically aromatic vinegar and products not just obtained from the fermentation of grape must alone. Like in ‘balsamic salads’.
Today, world’s cooks know aceto balsamico tradizionale. It is available to shoppers everywhere. It can sell for as much as US $200 for 100 ml. This makes traditional balsamic vinegars one of the most expensive foods in the world.
Or it can go for as cheaply as a few dollars for a big bottle of balsemic vinegar. But how can one vinegar offer such a dramatic price range? How can one condiment be fit for an emperor and for a salad dressing? The answer, of course, is that there is not just one balsamic vinegar. But understanding the differences takes a bit of work.