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All About Balsamic Vinegar

Published on
29 April 2021

Balsamico, the precious “black liquid gold” made in Modena, was once a rare condiment scarcely known even to Italians outside Modena. Today, it is a staple across the world and in most American pantries.

Manicaretti offers the complete range of ages, textures, and flavors—from the authentic Traditional Balsamic of Modena D.O.P. (Tradizionale), Balsamic Condiment (Condimenti) and Balsamic Vinegar of Modena I.G.P. to dressings like Saba and today’s new White Balsamic Condiment.

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Modena D.O.P.

In 1979, the Consortium of Producers of Traditonal Balsamic Vinegar of Modena established a series of controls, rules and regulations for the process to make "true" Balsamic Vinegar. In April 2000, the European Union granted this product the highest recognition by awarding it a D.O.P (Protected Origin Denomination) ensuring consistency and continuation of its centuries-long tradition. Within the Consortium there is a board of assaggiatori (expert tasters) who guarantee that each vinegar bottled in the distinctive Giuggiaro-designed bottle with the limited-number Seal of Quality has been produced in compliance with all the rules, regulations and procedures set forth by the Consortium and offers the "true" characteristics of this magnificent product.

Condimento Balsamico

Condimento Balsamico, also called Condimento as well as Balsamico, is made with the same saba (grape must) and in the same batterie (set of barrels) as is the Balsamic Vinegar Tradizionale DOP. Condimento Balsamico is made in a batteria, but the finished product may be younger or older according to the producer's wish. It could be drawn from barrels that have underwent anywhere from an amazing 100 travasi (topping-up, which is done on a yearly basis) to even a simple and vibrant 3 year travasiCondimenti Balsamici are typically less expensive than Tradizionale DOP due to the fact that they do not undergo the same rigorous scrutiny, and it is not uncommon for producers to carefully add a bit of wine vinegar to the younger travasi-selections in order to brighten the acidity that is so characteristic of a pure and authentic Traditional Balsamico.

Condimento Balsamico production is regulated by the Consorzio Balsamico of which most of the producers also produce Tradizionale DOP, and for that reason sometimes their selections can be far better than the certified DOP products. The few Condimenti Balsamici from Acetaia Leonardi which Manicaretti has selected for you are outstanding, and they may very well be the best value in Balsamico. From the amazing 100, 30, and 20 year travasi selections, to an assortment of carefully selected younger interpretations for which thickness, acidity, and flavors were always kept in mind.

Balsamico doesn’t “age” as wine does. Whereas a single vintage of wine ages in barrels and later in bottles, a balsamic’s “age” refers to the number of travasi (yearly topping-up) the acetaio (vinegar maker) has worked with on a particular batteria (sets of barrels); not the age of the contents in a bottle. A "young" balsamico will not develop the characteristics of a Tradizionale balsamico by simply being kept in the bottle for many years.

Balsamic Vinegar from Modena I.G.P.

In 2011, an outdated labeling method for balsamic vinegar (based solely on years of age) was replaced with the Aceto Balsamico di Modena I.G.P. (Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Protected Geographical Indication) and its strict guidelines for production. Under these new regulations, individual producers in Modena must identify both the age and viscosity of their vinegar according to a proprietary symbol. Acetaia Leonardi has chosen to use coins—Three Coins and Red Seal (young), Four Coins and Silver Seal (medium), and Five Coins and Gold Seal (thick). In the case of Rustichella d'Abruzzo: One Grape - Red Seal (formally 6 years), Two Grapes - Silver Seal (formally 12 years), Three Grapes - Gold Seal (formally 24 years).

To make these Modena IGP vinegars, Trebbiano and Lambrusco grape must is cooked for approximately 30 hours to reduce and thicken. Once cooled, the must is placed in large oak casks with a mother vinegar base and blended with a maximum of 10% high quality red wine vinegar. Next, the vinegar is rotated and aged in a variety of wood barrels for a minimum of two years and blended before bottling to ensure perfect balance and harmony.


Saba, Balsamic Glaze, and White Balsamic are produced in Modena in order to satisfy modern culinary trends and fashions around the world. Although made from the same must as “true” balsamic vinegars, these products are made by entirely different means and used primarily as decorative accents in food preparations.