There is still a lot of confusion about what constitutes a genuine Balsamic vinegar, or Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, to give this Italian “black gold” its correct name. After all, anyone can walk into their local supermarket and find a string of different vinegars all bearing the name Balsamic Vinegar of Modena; this is confusing I know, but do not be fooled – this is a cheaper “imitation” and nothing at all like the product it tries to imitate. Most of cheaper bottles will contain cooked grape juice and ordinary red wine vinegar, and sometimes thickeners and caramel to sweeten and colour. These products are regulated by IGP labelling and producers can add these additives to obtain the right colour or density. Most of them are pleasant enough to use for salad dressing, and slightly sweeter than regular red wine vinegar.
What is real traditional balsamic vinegar then?
Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, by contrast, is regulated every step of the way through the production and aging process and may only be produced in two areas, Modena and Reggio Emilia in the north of Italy, which is where you should go to find it and see how it is made. The best way to be sure that you are finding the real thing is to go on a Balsamic Tour to one of the producers, where you will learn all about the production process and how to recognise the genuine product. There are about 160 producers in the two regions, who make a total of just 75,000 bottles a year. The vinegar is made in the traditional age-old way, using mainly trebbiano grapes grown locally. The vinegar is aged in a succession of wooden barrels which become smaller and smaller until it has been maturing for at least 12 years, the minimum acceptable aging period for a Tradizionale Balsamic. At this stage the vinegar will be tasted by the regulatory body, the Consorzio to which the producer belongs, and if it is passed it will be labelled affinato, indicating a young Balsamic, and is bottled with a white top, in both Modena and Reggio Emilia.
Extra old balsamic vinegars in Modena and Reggio Emilia.
About 30 – 40% of the product is then further aged until it reaches 25 or even 30 years old. A really well matured over 25 year old Balsamic is labelled extra vecchio (very old) and will be bottled with a gold top in both regions. In Reggio Emilia, there is a third designation for vinegars that have been matured for at least 18 years – they are labelled vecchio (old) and bottled with a gold top. The bottle shapes are also distinctive for each region; in Modena they use a rounded globe-shaped bottle with a rectangular base and a long neck, while the Reggio Emilia bottle is straighter and has a slightly flared base.
Many of the producers (acetaia) in the Modena and Reggio Emilia region are very happy to take you on a tour of their establishments, but most will require advance booking if you are not part of a tour. Acetaia di Giorgio is one of the producers in Modena who will give you a genuine welcome and an excellent tour, including the chance to taste several different balsamics, while in Reggio Emilia, Acetaia Medici is a good choice since they not only make excellent Balsamic, but also several wonderful wines.
Emilia Delizia will be delighted to organise a traditional balsamic tour for your group, big or small. Our company can organise an all inclusive day with transport and English speaking guide, departing from Bologna, Modena, Reggio Emilia and Parma.
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We had a wonderful tour, best part about visiting the Modena region!
The tour was perfect. I think Paolo would be a splendid ambassador for Italy in the EU. He knows how excellent Italian food and eating together can solve many major problems, and can stop aggressive behavior. Not the hunt for more money, but the well being of family and friends counts. Paolo shows us the products of ages of civilization and he did this like an artist. So after the tour we really love Italia more and we'll come back. We will call you Paolo, Thanks!
Following two tours with your guides this week I would like to express my thanks for some wonderful experiences.
Monday we did the tour of cheese making, balsamic and Salami which was very good and the guide Paolo was very knowledgeable.
The truffle hunt tour today was absolutely amazing, the guide Stefano is pure gold and the tour was built with much thought. Our best experience so far, by far.
Looking forward to more tours and fun next time we are in Italy.
The group (and me) was VERY satisfied. We really enjoyed the Parmegiano Regiano which was interesting and we got to buy some delicate and cheap cheese, the same with the balsamico. The Ferrari driving was off course an experience for life. The Winery lunch felt very genuine and the people there was really welcoming and nice people. The genuine feeling there was however the big plus for us.
Paolo was excellent as our guide. He also felt very genuine. He did not talk just for the sake of talking, but when he had something to say he did it in a respectful and nice way. Everyone in the group really liked him.
I wanted to let you know what a great day we had this past Friday on our tour with Jacamo. (Probably not spelling it right) He was very nice and explained everything to us. It sure gives you a new appreciation when you are slicing cheese. 🙂 Our tour ended with him taking us to the vineyard for a tour and lunch and there, Paolo, the owner could not have been more nicer. It was a perfect ending.
Please let Jacamo know what a great job he did and how much we really appreciated it and his knowledge
The website is well structured and we received a prompt answer to all questions. Gabriele supported us with all information we needed and the organization before the trip was excellent.
We had an air conditioned van, which was very relaxing through the whole tour. The first stop was the parmigiano production, which was very impressive and interesting. We could learn and especially see all the different steps and even taste the various aged parmigiano. The second step was the balsamic vinegar tasting. Finally the meat part was interesting in the museum but we hoped that we also could see more about the production and their work, but the tasting was delicious. In overall we had a very informative and well accommodated half day with our guide
It was great experience! We visited Parmesan cheese production, Balsamic vinegar farm, Ham museum and Farmer's lunch. Our guide gave us a detailed explanation, we were very satisfied. An excellent tour for a reasonable price, highly recommended.
Nous sommes une famille de cinq et nous avons adoré notre expérience. Les trois endroits étaient choisis judicieusement. Notre guide était très généreuse et super gentille. Nous recommandons ce tour ( parmesan, vinaigre balsamique et jambon de parme).
My family felt our first trip to Italy must include a tour of a Parmesan Cheese Factory so when I stumbled on this website several months ago I had no idea what I treasure I found! From the moment I submitted a request for the tour, my experience with Emilia Delizia was first rate. Gabriele provided excellent customer service by patiently answering all my questions to guide me through the selection and reservation of our Foodie Delight Tour. Paolo, our driver, was prompt, cordial and knowledgeable about the processes we were observing and the area in general conveying loads of information with his well-developed English speaking skills. Our stop in Modena fell on a Saturday so we were quite fortunate to end up with a private tour which allowed us to have a nice, personal interaction with the people at each site. Everyone was friendly, generous with the tastings and we never felt rushed to move along to the next location. Now that we have returned to the states, my family agrees this tour was a highlight of our 10 day trip. I was really looking forward to this excursion and am glad to report it exceeded my expectations.
Unbelievable!!! Totally recommend the full hour to anyone and was more than I expected.
I also want to recognize Alex Pignone who accompanied me,He was very professional and extremely knowledgeable and made me feel like I have known Him forever and where two friends out for a cruise.
Thank You for allowing me to get one more item off my bucket list.
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