News of 14.07.23

How many years to obtain the Traditional Balsamic vinegar of Modena


One of the characteristics of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP (PDO) is that it undergoes a slow aging in barrels, which naturally improves the organoleptic characteristics of the product, as well as increasing its density.

Many people wonder about the age of the balsamic vinegar to be able to understand its real characteristics and its commercial value, so let's find out together how many years it takes to obtain a Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP.

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar DOP: Affinato and Extra vecchio.

To obtain the protected designation of origin, The Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP, must follow a strict production process. First, it is obtained exclusively from cooked grape must. There are only two qualities of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP: the so-called “Affinato” which must age in barrels for no less than 12 years, and the “Extra Vecchio” left to age in barrels for at least 25 years.

Affinato and Extra Vecchio therefore do not define a precise time indication, but the minimum period of aging that has allowed to achieve the characteristics imposed by the certifying body. Since the two products are bottled in the same typical 100ml bottle, round with a square base and it is not permitted by the regulations to mention the aging period on the packaging, how can we recognize an Affinato from an Extra Vecchio?

First, check the closure of the bottle. In fact, an ABTM DOP Extra Vecchio always has a GOLDEN capsule, and this is the best way to identify a DOP aged for at least 25 years. Furthermore, for the “Extra Old” it is allowed to add an adhesive plate with the words "Extra Vecchio". Consequently, where you see a golden capsule and the indication "Extra Vecchio", there is no doubt that you are in the presence of the DOP (PDO) with at least 25 years of aging (it can be even older!) while if the capsule is not gold colour, it will be an "affinato" with a minimum aging of 12 years.

Years of ageing: Balsamic Vinegar is a product that follows a particular process, in which the first nucleus of slow-flamed cooked must is left to mature in the first, largest, barrel. As maturation proceeds, the vinegar tends to concentrate. So here comes the time for the first transfer (Travaso), once a year, into the next cask of the battery, a little smaller than the previous one, and in this process the vinegars coming from the mother cask are topped up and so on from year to year until the last barrel, the smallest one.

Aging does not always mean quality.

Truth is that the passing of time is, in the case of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, a factor of great value. Balsamic vinegar is sublimed over time; however, the quality of the vinegar does not depend only on the long ageing, but on the quality of the raw materials used and on the care with which the processing is carried out by the Vinegar experts.

In fact, what makes Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP truly unique is the maturation in barrels with annual transfers and topping up from one barrel to another. Why are transfers important? Because the batteries are made up of barrels of different woods and passing from one barrel to another, the product acquires all the scents of the various woods, absorbing the aromas of each variety in which it is left to mature. This slow process leads after so many years to a rich bouquet that deserves to be bottled by the ABTM DOP Protection Consortium following careful analysis and accurate tasting.

Purchasing a product such as Acetaia Leonardi DOP Traditional Balsamic Vinegar with its properties (velvety texture, shades of brown, complexity of aromas, balanced sweet-and-sour taste…) is a guarantee of quality and compliance with the traditional recipe. The European DOP logo is the final guarantee that we are in the presence of an authentic Traditional Balsamic Vinegar.

The quality of Leonardi Balsamic is also found in the “Condiments”.

With the same care and the same method of “Travasi” and “rincalzi”, Acetaia Leonardi produces a wide range of balsamic vinegars aged for a long time, but not DOP certified. In this case we will no longer talk about Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP but about Balsamic Condiments of great value, made with only grape must, without additives, preservatives, or thickeners, offering a wider choice of aging and packaging options, as they are no longer tied to the two minimum aging requirements or to the 100ml bottle of Giugiaro. These Balsamic Condiments differ from each other in the number of transfers (Travasi) mentioned on the label (even over 100 transfers!) and offer unique tasting sensations, even though they are not DOP certified.

Which one to choose?

As master tasters know well, each balsamic vinegar is unique and releases an inimitable range of flavours and aromatic notes. When it comes to such a particular product as balsamic vinegar, tasting it, when possible, is undoubtedly the best way to understand its real qualities and imagine the best combinations.

For this reason, at the Acetaia Leonardi showroom we allow ample space to tasting the different types of products, organizing guided tours and vertical tastings of aged balsamic vinegars.

Feel like to compare a Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP “Affinato” with an “Extra Vecchio”? Come and visit us at Acetaia Leonardi or look for a reseller of Leonardi brand products near you.

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