History & Lore Of Balsamic Vinegar from Modena

Like many gourmet food items, balsamic vinegar has a long and romantic history. Unlike other vinegars available, the balsamic is dark brown, velvety and carries both sweet and tart notes. Balsamic vinegars have complex flavor profiles, which come from its fermentation process. Balsamics are made from unfermented grapes and are aged in at least five different types of wood barrels, some at least a half-century old.

The grapes, as they age, evolve from a water-like consistency to a more syrup-like consistency. A balsamic that has been aged for 50 years will be the consistency of molasses with color reminiscent of molasses as well.

When you’re in the market for a fine balsamic, there are three types from which to choose:

  1. Tradizionale – made in Modena, Italy using artisan fermentation methods established in the Renaissance era that date back to the Middle Ages.
  2. Industriale – mass-produced batches made in Italy. These balsamics are made using commercial processes and are aged only three years.
  3. Imitation – these vinegars can be made anywhere in the world and are made using colored and flavored cider vinegar.


O&CO. offers only the finest selection of Tradizionale.

It has been less than a quarter of a century since balsamics made their to American dinner plates. Balsamic vinegar is a gourmet item that enhances your everyday meal and can elevate it to a palate-pleasing gourmet dinner whether you’re serving beef, fish or pork or drizzling it with a gourmet extra-virgin olive oil on your salad greens.

You may be surprised to learn that tasting balsamics is as much of an art as is wine sampling. The flavor, bouquet and consistency of the balsamic is predicated on the region in which it was harvested, the type of grapes used and the age and wood of the barrels in which it was fermented.

Today you can find a selection of high-quality balsamics as well as “everyday” and other “specialty” vinegars from which to choose for yourself or as a gift.