Wow! That is what many people say the first time they taste Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. Not exactly original, but it expresses the feelings and emotions that this amazing condiment brings out. The rich, deep, sweet flavor of balsamic vinegar produced in Modena, Italy is a unique and satisfying experience for lovers of flavor around the world.
Since the late 1970’s, people outside of Italy have been able to enjoy this treat along with natives of the Modena region. The gourmet cooks and chefs of the world have had their eyes and taste buds opened to the most delicious and rare treat: balsamic vinegar made according to longstanding tradition from family recipes.
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Because this condiment has become so popular, you may see something labeled balsamic vinegar at the grocery store. It might be in a fancy bottle, and you may think you have found this delicacy at a bargain price. Sadly, you get what you pay for in this case: wine vinegar with caramel coloring. Is it real balsamic vinegar from Italy? Nope. Nothing like it. Just a supermarket fake.
You need to look beyond the grocery store and spend a little bit more to get the excellence and flavor that will truly delight the taste buds. But if you wish to stock this most valuable and treasured condiment, how do you choose a Modena balsamic vinegar producer?
If you’ve been reading up on balsamic vinegars, you know that the inexpensive fake balsamic vinegars will not cut it for the true gourmets. You will need to pass up the mass-produced imitations to find a true, honest, and trusted product to satisfy the discriminating tastes of today’s fine-food obsessed customers. Here are some qualities to consider as you choose:
1. Where is it made?
Balsamic vinegar of Modena is produced in Modena, Italy. This region has the history, the techniques, and the proper soil to produce authentic balsamic vinegar. The hot summers and cold winters of Modena are key to infusing the right combination of intense flavor and acidity into the vinegar.
2. Is it made in the traditional manner?
Balsamic vinegar is made from grape must, or the juice of specific varieties of grapes, seeds and skins included. The must is cooked down and then aged in wooden barrels for a minimum of 2 months and up to 25 years. Only in Modena will you find producers who follow traditional recipes and know how to make this delicacy properly.
Look for a family name and address on the label. The small family producers make the best balsamic vinegar, and this is overseen by the Consorzio di Balsamico Condimento. If you see a major company name and an address from somewhere else on the label, it is not the real thing.
Does the producer take the care and time to make the best vinegar possible? The care and craftsmanship that goes into producing superior balsamic vinegar are important. Meticulously following family recipes, testing for quality at every stage of production, and attention to every detail produces a great product.
5. Rarity and exclusivity
You don’t want to accidentally stock one of the fake balsamic vinegars. Choose a producer that can give you the value of a limited run of vinegar each year, ensuring that you stock the most select, valuable and prized Modena balsamic vinegar from a reputable producer.
6. Color and Texture
Look for deep, rich color and a thick, slightly syrupy texture. Good balsamic should coat the side of a glass and have a distinctive dark brown color.
This follows from the depth of the color and texture of the vinegar. The whole process of making the vinegar imbues it with a complex taste: smooth, sweet and woody, with overtones of cherry, honey, or fig. The finest vinegars can be (and in fact are) drunk like a port.
8. Trustworthy and Innovative
When you choose a Modena balsamic vinegar producer, you want a trustworthy name with history and tradition behind it. Just like the making of wine, balsamic vinegar requires creativity and innovation to keep up with trends and move with the times. The best producers also offer mid-priced vinegars and new types of products that are popular, like balsamic glazes and flavored vinegars.
Balsamic vinegar of Modena is a sensory delight, an aesthetic pleasure of the highest order. When picking a Modena balsamic vinegar producer, trust your senses. A trusted family producer will provide a unique experience and bring the emotional gratification that comes from scrupulous attention to detail.