Cindy DeCarolis

Is Your Balsamic Vinegar Real Balsamic?

You haven’t had balsamic vinegar until you have gone to the source, Modena, Italy.

I had the good fortune to spend time in September traveling in Italy with my husband and his family. We all stayed in a villa just north of Parma and did day trips to various cities and villages, including Modena, the home of “Aceto Balsamico di Modena.”

There were three highlights of our day in Modena: a wonderful market, the Pavarotti Museum, and of course, Bottega Giusti. My husband and I discovered Bottega Giusti while wandering and we went in to do a tasting. We learned that Bottega Giusti was founded by Giuseppe Giusti in 1605. Giusti is the oldest producer of balsamic vinegar in Modena.

Today, the company is run by the 17th generation of the Giusti family. Over the course of a 400-year history the company has won many awards, including 14 gold medals during the World Exhibitions in the late 1800’s. In 1929, Giusti was named the official supplier of the King of Italy, the Savoia family, and granted the right to include the Royal Seal of Approval to their products.

Giuseppe Giusti was one of the first to document his rules for obtaining the perfect balsamic vinegar. Historically there was an oral tradition of passing on the recipes. Giusti’s key elements in perfection include: the quality of the raw materials, long ageing time, and casks that have been used to age balsamic vinegar for centuries.

The shop was staffed by a welcoming and knowledgeable young woman. She explained the process of producing balsamic vinegar and guided us through a tasting. We tasted the grape must that is the basis for balsamic vinegar and several different vinegars.

Now, you might think that balsamic would cost less in Modena like I did. However, like with anything, you get what you pay for. We purchased one 3.4-ounce bottle of their Condimento Il Banda Rosa – costing 34 euros ($33.66.) Why? Because of the superior quality of the product.

“The ‘Banda Rosa’ is the ultimate pride and expression of the art of Giusti vinegars. Of great body and concentration, it is distinguished by its extraordinary complexity and rich bouquet of aromas. Notes of plum, black cherries, and sweet spices.”

I have never tasted a balsamic like this anywhere. It is delicious and a little bit goes a long way. Just a drizzle over salad or vegetables adds incredible flavor. Balsamic vinegar has beneficial antioxidants and it is a source of calcium, potassium, and magnesium.

How do you know if your balsamic vinegar is the real deal? Authentic balsamic vinegar will always be labelled Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale and carry the “Denominazione di Origine Protetta” (DOP) stamp — a European Union certification that guarantees an ingredient’s quality, production, and place of origin. The only ingredient is grape must.

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