History

Distant roots in a precious gift

The origins of balsamic vinegar date back to ancient times: the Romans used cooked grape must (the sapum) as a medicine, sweetener and condiment. The practice was also common in the Emilia region, as Columella tells in his comments on the poet Virgil, who describes the particular behaviour of the must in this area, which acidified even after being cooked.

The birth of this black gold was probably accidental, but in a short time its characteristics made it a product that was deemed so noble that in 1046 the future emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, King Henry III, requested that “exceptionally perfect vinegar” from the marquis Boniface of Canossa – father of Matilda, one of the most important figures of the Italian medieval period – as it was made in his citadel.

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“Balsamic” Renaissance

Over the years, its tracks crossed the land and became concentrated in Modena, to where the Este Court, which had been carrying out its own production for a long time, transferred at the end of the 1500s. Vinegar was also now at the height of its Renaissance, but it would be another two centuries (1747) before the term “balsamic” would appear for the first time.

Beyond the borders

During the second half of the 1800s, the province of Emilia became part of the newly-born Kingdom of Italy, and Balsamic Vinegar of Modena became the protagonist of one of the most important national and international exhibitions in the world.

Alongside the aristocratic tradition, the habit of diluting the product with wine vinegar to obtain a lighter condiment for everyday use became common among peasant families – and thus that which would later become known as Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI was born.

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The spoils of the kingdom

During the visit of the new sovereign, the prime minister of the kingdom, Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour ordered the transfer of the best casks to Piedmont, to the royal castle of Moncalieri, where, far from the climate of its territory, the Balsamic began to deteriorate.

Probably in an attempt to save it, the Piedmont winemaker, Ottavio Ottavi, requested information from Francesco Agazzotti, a local producer and expert, who responded with a detailed letter that became the methodological basis for the production of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.

The new life of Balsamic

The 1900s inaugurated a new chapter for balsamic vinegar, which, in 1983, obtained the “Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena” designation of origin, an acknowledgement that was consolidated in 2000 with the victory of the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).

In the early 2000s, this was made official with a further protection of the product: in 2009, the European Union finally granted the registration application presented fifteen years earlier by the newly created Consortium for Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena was now recognised as PGI.