On the market there are many types of Balsamic Vinegar, but how to recognize the authentic Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP?
First of all, the product specification must be Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP, and not simply “Balsamic” or “Balsamic Vinegar”; seems nonsense! Yet many do not know that the one good and real Balsamic Vinegar IGP can be exclusively produced in Modena or Reggio Emilia: not in Bologna, not in Milan, not in Rome. The abbreviation IGP (or PGI in English) stands for “Protected Geographical Indication” of the territory indicated in the product name and must be accompanied by the typical circular yellow and blue sticker.
Balsamic Vinegar can be sold on behalf of a company which is not from Modena, but the place of bottling must be indicated. Choose a product whose label says that it has been bottled in Modena and Reggio Emilia: this is a guarantee of a shorter product chain (and a better Balsamic Vinegar).
If now you are sure you are looking at a real Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP, the second important thing to check is the ingredient list: the most natural balsamic products contain only two of them, Cooked Grape Must and Wine Vinegar. Sugar or thickeners are forbidden. Always prefer products without E150d colorant, also called caramel, because the lack of this ingredient indicates that the dark brown colour was obtained in a more natural way, thanks to the selection of raw materials and longer ageing period in barrels.
Then, the acidity. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena always has minimum the 6% of acidity, as required by law. If your Balsamic Vinegar has an acidity of less than 6%, then it is not an authentic Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP.
Even the size of the bottle is an indicator of authenticity: the IGP production regulation only admits sizes of 250 ml, 500 ml, 750 ml, 1 lt, 2 lt, 3 lt, 5 lt. If your balsamic vinegar is in 100 ml bottles, then it is not a real Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP.
Finally, producers cannot specify the years of aging of the product, and they cannot use adjectives such as “extra”, “fine”, “reserves”, “selected” . Often, the Acetaia uses a different number of medals referring to the maturity of the product, or names, as our “Bronze”, “Silver” and “Gold” seals.
Only the name “Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP” is accepted, when the products has aged in barrels for at least 3 years.
These little precautions have to be taken especially abroad, to protect yourself as much as possible in the certainty of buying a genuine traditional Italian food and a good, real Balsamic Vinegar.