A New Leaf for Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
A new leaf rating system has Italians tossing more than their salads as Balsamic Vinegar of Modena establishes a consumer-friendly means of identifying different grades of this sweet and sour elixir which dates back to the Middle Ages.
Authentic Balsamic Vinegar from Italy’s famed Modena is the secret ingredient in the signature dishes of the world’s most creative chefs. Now, an on-label rating system tells home cooks about the quality and style of a balsamic vinegar and helps them choose which one to use in dishes from appetizers to desserts.
What’s in that Bottle?
Balsamic vinegars line supermarket and specialty shop shelves, priced from $2.99 to $150 or more, and confusion abounds about exactly what is inside each bottle. "Something had to be done," according to Cesare Mazzetti, president of the Consorzio Aceto Balsamico di Modena, a consortium of 10 local manufacturers.
Three years ago Balsamic Vinegar of Modena was awarded the PGI certification (Protected Geographic Indication, IGP in Italian), which guarantees that every vinegar bearing that mark is authentic, of the highest quality and produced using traditional methods. Beyond vinegar, this classification is used for other authentic products like Chianti wine and Sorana beans.
Because each balsamic vinegar of Modena is made from a proprietary blend of aged wine vinegar, grape must and young wine vinegar, each one is different: thickness, sweetness, and intensity vary, sometimes dramatically, from bottle to bottle, brand to brand. PGI regulations forbid aging claims on labels because they’re misleading - producers use different proportions of aged and young vinegar in their final blends.
To help both chefs and home cooks sort through the myriad styles and select the right balsamic vinegar for their needs, the producers of the Modena region recently developed a rating system to standardize the industry and tell consumers exactly what they can expect when they open a bottle.
Light and zippy or thick and sweet? The certification system - the result of an in-depth study by the Italian Association of Balsamic Tasters and by CSFA, a reputable sensory analysis laboratory - assessed color, fruitiness, sweetness, olfactive intensity, pungency, body, and flavor balance, then rated each vinegar on a scale of one to four grape leaves. The leaf rating appears on a banner right on the package label, an easy-to-understand and reliable indication of style, flavor profile and appropriate uses.
The Leaf System
The Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI "leaf system":
A few tips for using Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI: