The members of both consortiums, Modena and Reggio Emilia, needed to get DOP and PGI
protection because there are so many imitators producing inferior products. The label will
tell you whether you are buying real Balsamic Vinegar or a quickie knock-off.
Every bottle of Balsamic Vinegar should have a label with nutrition information and
ingredients. Balsamic Vinegars will have “Cooked Grape Must” first on the list of
ingredients. “Wine Vinegar” might be second, if the vinegar is aged less than 12 years.
Sugar is never an ingredient in true Balsamic Vinegar. Neither is caramel color, corn syrup
or artificial flavor.
The label should also have the acidity level, usually 5% to 7%, and an expiration date.
Balsamic Vinegar will have a shelf life of several years, certainly longer than olive oil. But
just because it is an aged product does not mean it will continue to get better with age.
Once you open the bottle, like olive oil, Balsamic Vinegar begins to oxidize.
The label should also state where the vinegar was bottled. “Italy” doesn’t cut it; only
Modena and Reggio Emilia in Emilia-Romagna are the home of authentic Balsamic Vinegar
of Modena and Reggio Emilia.
“Aged in oak” will impress only those who know nothing about Balsamic Vinegar, because
true Balsamic Vinegar is aged in casks of multiple kinds of wood, all more exotic than oak.