Balsamic 101

Balsamic 101

In the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, fall is vendemmia, also known as the grape harvest. True balsamic is made with specific wine grape varieties — including Sangiovese, Trebbiano, or Lambrusco — in the Modena or Reggio Emilia provinces of the Emilia-Romagna region.

Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena) and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia DOP (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia) are regulated by Italian law. DOP stands for Denominazione d' Origine Protetta, which translates to Protected Designation of Origin. This is similar to how the French protect the use of the term "Champagne" to refer only to Champagne made using traditional methods from grapes grown and wine produced in the Champagne region of France.

After harvest, the whole grapes are crushed into a "must," which will become the foundation for the flavors in the balsamic vinegar. This must is then cooked until reduced by about a third into a thick, sweet syrup. The practice of cooking grape must dates back to ancient Rome. It was from the 11th century that the production of balsamic vinegar was associated with the city of Modena. 

The must is then transferred to a batteria (battery), a set of progressively smaller wooden barrels. Six types of wood can be used for these barrels: cherry, mulberry, juniper, oak, ash, or chestnut. The type of wood has its own impact on the flavor of the balsamic. 

In the barrels, the fermentation process begins with a “mother,” a probiotic colony of yeast and acetic bacteria. Each year, the must will reduce by approximately 10% through evaporation, becoming progressively more concentrated and complex. Over time, half the contents of the mother barrel are replaced by new must, and moved to the aging barrels. Balsamic is aged for a minimum of 12 years, and in some cases passed down through generations with a decades old “mother.” After 25 years, a traditional balsamic is labeled “extravecchio.”

At Affamata, we carry a variety of balsamic, our specialty being our 18 Year Style Traditional Dark Balsamic Vinegar. Crafted in Modena, Italy and inspired by rare lots of 18 Year Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia, our dark balsamic has everything you would expect in a world-class balsamic. Our flavored balsamics have 100% natural flavors with nothing artificial added.

To learn more about the balsamic that we offer, email us at or ask one of our knowledgeable retail associates at our store.

Molte grazie!

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