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Factors That Make The Difference

The Modena Microclimate

These complex, unique flavors are produced by the distinctive microclimate around
Modena, what the French call terroir, and the Italians call terra—earth or land. This terra
unica, this special combination of rain, sun, and soil found nowhere else, determines the
distinctive taste of the grapes that go into Balsamic Vinegar. It also causes the changes
that take place in barrel after barrel of the cooked grape mosto.
   
This combination of centuries of human know-how and terra unica is thought to produce a
healthful product. Hence the name Balsamico, which means something fragrant, healing,
and soothing. Balsamic Vinegar is blessed with the antioxidants and polyphenols in
grapes. Italians believe that it is healthful to start a meal with Balsamic Vinegar as an
aperitivo or end it as a digestivo. As a pure plant product, Balsamic Vinegar lacks the high
calorie, cholesterol-laden ingredients in so many American salad dressings, like
mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, eggs.

DOP and Quality Control

There are two different groups of producers of Balsamic Vinegar, both using the traditional
methods of production: CABM - Consorzio Aceto Balsamico di Modena (Consortium of
Balsamic Vinegar of Modena) and Consorzio Aceto Balsamico di Reggio Emilia.

They both have two goals: to promote and to protect Balsamic Vinegar.
First, they want to make people who love good food aware of Balsamic Vinegar, and to
make it available to them.
Second, they want to make sure that cheap imitations don't steal the name Balsamic
Vinegar and damage the reputation of this ancient product.

On April 17, 2000, the European Union granted DOP status to Balsamic Vinegar. DOP
stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta—Protected Name of Origin. This means that
the name Balsamic Vinegar stands for something of extremely high quality in Italy. It also
creates cultural continuity for the product and the people and the region that make it.
Unfortunately, the Consortium cannot control names and labels outside of Italy. On April
13, 2011, the approximately 100 members of the Consorzio changed its name to The
Consortium of Producers of Ancient Vinegar Makers.
   
In July 2009, they were successful in having Aceto Balsamico di Modena (Balsamic Vinegar
of Modena) listed as a Protected Geographic Indication (P.G.I.) by the European Union.
This means that no one can say that they are making Balsamic Vinegar of Modena unless
they are in Modena. It is not a style of vinegar; it is a specific place.
   
Each Consorzio has strict procedures in place to assure absolute quality control:

   1. Verified taste. In a blind taste-test, an independent panel of five experts has to
certify that the Balsamic Vinegar meets standard taste qualifications.

   2. Standardized bottle size. The bottle size is set at 100 milliliters.

   3. Certified bottling plants. Balsamic Vinegar can only be put into bottles at specified
bottling plants.

   4. Sealed, guaranteed, and numbered bottles.