It is customary to say that age is never asked, especially of women, but we add that one should not ask the age of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena either. When we talk about the aging of Balsamic Vinegar, in fact, there are many myths to dispel and misunderstandings to clarify.
The aging of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar is often considered a fundamental parameter for evaluating its quality, so much that people go in search of aged balsamic vinegar of Modena thinking that this denomination is in itself an indication of its value.
How Old Must Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Be?
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is defined as Affinato if it is aged for minimum 12 years, and as Extra Vecchio when the minimum aging is 25 years. It is important to point out that these are not the real ages of single products, as we are often erroneously led to think, but only an indication of the minimum aging time – according to the production regulation – that permit to use the two above-mentioned denominations.
Why Do We Talk About the Minimum Aging and Not of the Age of Balsamic Vinegar?
First of all, because the production of the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO takes many years, and involves the continuous topping-up of the barrels with the vinegars of different years. We are not talking about a static product, that gets left in the barrel for a determined number of years. Therefore, we cannot speak of a specific age, but it would be more correct to speak of the duration of the aging process. Often products of different paths are merged in the same class, united by the same aging minimum. For this reason, among the Affinato vinegars, as well as among Extra Vecchio ones, we will also find products with different characteristics.
Aged Balsamic Vinegar Does Not Necessarily Mean High Quality Vinegar.
The transformations that take place during the aging process has a very rapid rise in the first years, to then slow down more and more: at the beginning the vinegar changes rapidly but then stabilizes and, the more time passes, the less difference there is between two vinegars that are 2-3 years apart. Older does not mean better: what matters are the organoleptic characteristics of a vinegar. 12 and 25 years are simply the thresholds that are recognized as minimum time that a product needs to obtain specific characteristics, requested by the production regulation in order to obtain the Protected Denomination of Origin certification.
How Do We Recognize a High Quality Balsamic Vinegar?
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO can be recognized as such only if it is produced in compliance with the strict production regulation, and if its quality gets checked and certified by the specific protection body, established by the Ministry of Agricultural and Food Policies. Every production batch is carefully examined and evaluated by a special tasting commission, which decrees the score and eventually approves the bottling of the product in the exclusive 100 ml. bottle designed by Giugiaro. The tasters of the Consortium can also decree that a balsamic vinegar aged at least 25 years has the organoleptic characteristics required to use the denomination Extra Vecchio. The bottle with the seal of the Consortium guarantees that the production process has ended with the tasting and that the quality of the vinegar is high enough to obtain the PDO certification.
The myth on the age of Balsamic Vinegar is finally dispelled! Sometimes you may happen to see the age of the product for sale. But remember that time is not the only factor that influences the quality of the final product. Therefore, if we happen in front of two different products, where the younger one develops a more harmonious and intense taste on the palate, wouldn’t it be preferable to the more aged one? If you want to buy a good Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, don not search for the oldest one, but look for a Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP in the Consortium’s bottle, just like the one from “La Vecchia Dispensa”.