There is not just a single kind of Balsamic Vinegar, but two: the Modena Balsamic Vinegar, which is protected by GPI (Protected Geographical Indication) from the last year and the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (or Reggio Emilia) protected by PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) from 2000.
The PDO product can be easily distinguished by the most common GPI Modena Balsamic Vinegar both for the word “Traditional” and for the shape of the bottle, mandatory for all the producers, which is small (100ml) and almost spherical for the Modena one, designed by Giugiaro, and bell-shaped for the Reggio Emilia one.
The PDO product is extremely valuable and it is aged for long time. This exalted its image and prestige, but obviously didn’t help it on conquering the market. All the different aspects of the productive process of the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar are local and limited to the two provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia. From the grapes to the processing plants, from the long ageing to the bottling (that takes place in three centers which are shared among all the producers) all take place in these provinces.
As for the other vinegar, the Modena Balsamic Vinegar (without the word “Traditional”), it was produced from centuries in the very same areas and developed together with the Traditional. But the Traditional was a very rare and expensive product just produced for Nobles and used in very special occasions while the Modena Balsamic Vinegar was a cheaper product for everybody, made more accessible by adding wine vinegar and by reducing the ageing process. This is the reason why the Modena Balsamic Vinegar succeeded in conquering the market. Meeting the Anglo-Saxon and Nordic taste for sweet-and-sour food, it began its spread around the world at the end of the 19th century, definitely before than in Italy, where it was known just in the production areas until some decades ago. Then, it conquered the consumers of USA, Canada, Germany and Australia, becoming an extremely successful product and becoming a true flag for the Made in Italy around the world.
The production of this vinegar was regulated in 1933, but by quite imprecise roles, e.g. it wasn’t neither specified the origin of the musts. The claims for specifications and further regulations by the Modena Balsamic Vinegar Association in the name of customers and producers were unheard because of the opposition of some producers and of some European countries, which asked for the elimination of the obligation to buy the musts in the region to support the GPI. It is funny the nowadays these same countries are trying to produce a fake balsamic vinegar, even using the Italian name!
The most important thing, both for the GPI or the PDO products, is that the vinegars are processed in conformity with all the regulations and certified by the controllers in order to avoid defrauds to the consumer.
The different Balsamic Vinegars
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, PDO from 2000
Certified producers: 300 circa
Bottling facilities: 3
Shape of the bottle: Spherical, with a glass basis, designed by Giugiaro (mandatory). 100ml
Annual production: around 7000 liters (70.000 bottles)
Market value at the consumer: 4.000.000 € circa
Recognized Association: Consorzio Tutela Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena
Chairman: Enrico Corsini
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia, PDO from 2000
Certified producers: 100 circa
Bottling facilities: 1
Shape of the bottle: Bell-shaped (mandatory). 100ml
Annual production: around 3000 liters (30.000 bottles)
Market value at the consumer: 2.000.000 € circa
Recognized Association: Consorzio Tutela Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia
Chairman: Carlo Ferretti
Modena Balsamic Vinegar, GPI from 2009
Certified producers: 80 circa
Bottling facilities: over 100
Shape of the bottle: free. Capacity: 250ml or more (typically 250ml and 500ml)
Annual production: around 90 million of liters
Market value at the consumer: more than 300.000.000 € (it is one of the first ten Italian GPI products for value)
Recognized Association: Consorzio Aceto Balsamico di Modena. 34 members among the processers, the bottlers and the must producers.
Chairman: Cesare Mazzetti
Source: Marte Comunicazione