Traditions and customs associated with Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO

Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP is a traditional condiment produced in the Modena area, made from the must of local grapes and aged for at least 12 years. The vinegar’s fragrance and aromaticity make it one of Italy’s most iconic products, suitable for enhancing many preparations, giving both sweet and savoury dishes a distinctive touch.

Not everyone, however, knows the history behind this ‘black nectar’. For instance, many people do not know that the adjective ‘balsamic’was associated with vinegar because the original use of the product was as an antiseptic to soothe sore throats and as a digestive against stomach aches. It was also believed to combat the plague.

The family tradition

Aceto Balsamico di Modena DOP is a true tradition for all the people of Modena. In fact, just as oil is produced in other regions, vinegar is produced in Emilia Romagna and particularly in Modena. It is not uncommon, even today, to find barrels in the attics used precisely for the production of vinegar, in both country and city dwellings. This is mainly due to an ancient custom of bringing barrels of vinegar as dowry when a woman was getting married. The more barrels a family possessed, the more valuable the woman’s dowry was.

In fact, upon the birth of a female child, each family started a vinegar production, to which they named the newborn, precisely for the dowry.  Such barrels were placed in the attic to prevent theft by the ill-intentioned. In addition, there was a belief that a stone from the Panaro River should be placed to hold the protective cloth of the cask in place to preserve the taste of the product.

balsamic vinegar traditions

The Origins of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO

But what are the origins of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO ? The story begins at the time of the Ancient Romans: they were the first to cook grape must in order to make a drink or season preparations. At the table, during their sumptuous banquets, the Romans always placed bowls full of vinegar where diners dipped pieces of bread between plates to aid digestion. Later, between the 12th and 14th centuries, real guilds sprang up in the territories between Modena and Reggio Emilia with the task of preserving and preserving the vinegar recipe.

During the Middle Ages, in Modena, it was the Duchy of the Estensi that contributed to the spread of this particular product, even beyond regional and national borders, even attributing the adjective ‘balsamic’ to vinegar for the first time.  It was then the French, in particular, who marketed the vinegar.

The invasion of Napoleon in 1796 allowed them to find vinegar production at the Estense Court, which they decided to sell as well as all other goods. The product was much appreciated, and became one of the protagonists of the exhibitions held in Modena and Bologna in 1863 and 1888 respectively. During the same period, the first dynasties of vinegar producers established themselves, and the production processes to obtain a proper vinegar began to be precisely codified.