What is Balsamic Vinegar of Modena?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Balsamic vinegar of Modena is a condiment produced in Modena, Italy. The term “balsamic vinegar” can refer to two different products which are made in very distinct ways. Traditional balsamic vinegar, also known as Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, is made in a complex process which requires lengthy aging to produce a very complex, flavorful product. Balsamic vinegar of Modena is a less expensive version made in a very different way, with an entirely different flavor.

Balsamic vinegar of Modena.
Balsamic vinegar of Modena.

The roots of “balsamic” relate to health and rejuvenation. Italians have historically believed that balsamic vinegar is a restorative condiment which can make people feel healthier and more energetic. Traditional balsamic vinegar is used in a wide variety of ways, from making sauces for cooked meats to flavoring desserts. The traditional product can be costly, because it is produced in limited amounts, and a great deal of labor goes into its manufacture.

Modena balsamic vinegar and olive oil can be drizzled over a green salad.
Modena balsamic vinegar and olive oil can be drizzled over a green salad.

The traditional method for making balsamic vinegar involves cooking down a sweet wine made from Trebbiano grapes. The resulting syrupy mixture is aged in a series of casks. Over time, the liquid becomes sweet and slightly acidic, with a very rich and complex flavor. This condiment is highly prized, and it can fetch a high price at the store. Traditionally produced balsamic vinegar is also protected under labeling laws, with only products made in a particular way and in Modena bearing the Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena label.

By contrast, balsamic vinegar of Modena is made with red wine vinegar which is treated with colorants and sweeteners to develop a taste similar to that of the traditional product. However, it tends to be thinner, more acidic, and less complex. The quality can also vary considerably, because the product lacks labeling protections and quality standards. Balsamic vinegar of Modena is often used in dressings, and it is readily available in most markets.

Many consumers outside of Italy are unaware of the fact that there are two types of balsamic vinegar. They are acquainted with balsamic vinegar of Modena, but unaware that this product is actually an imitation of another condiment which has centuries of history and tradition behind it. Visitors to Italy or people with access to import stores would be well-advised to try the traditional product so that they can experience the difference. Reggio Emililia is also famous for its traditional balsamic vinegar production, and it has a protected label of its own which consumers can use to identify the genuine article.

As its name implies, balsamic vinegar of Modena is produced in Modena, Italy.
As its name implies, balsamic vinegar of Modena is produced in Modena, Italy.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Why do I get a jelly-like substance forming in my balsamic vinegar of Modena?


Why does the label state (WARNING: This product contains lead a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm)? Is this real or just the State of California doing its best to protect us from ourselves? Are the quantities of lead to the point that this product should not be sold? Somebody give straight answers.


I'd be interested to see where the lead issue is coming from. Traditional balsamic vinegar is runs through a process of aging but that aging is in wooden barrels. Where is exactly is this "lead" coming from? I think this lead thing is hooey.


I have always been a huge fan of aged balsamic vinegar. I usually use Monari Federzoni balsamic vinegar of Modena, though very occasionally I'll try out another brand just to see how it compares.

The great thing about balsamic vinegar is that you only need a little bit of it to provide a lot of flavor. So whether you're using it for a salad topping or vinaigrette, for mixing with dipping oil for bread, or as a flavoring in am marinade, you only need to use a little bit.

That's great because, one, it's a nice, robust flavor, and two, balsamic vinegar is not cheap. That's why I always keep some on hand for cooking.

I don't have to spend a lot, but I can still get the great traditional flavor of a balsamic vinegar, and guests love it!


What would you say the best balsamic vinegar is? I've been looking at buying some nice balsamic vinegar to keep on hand for salads and vinaigrettes, but I'm kind of at a loss for what kind to get.

I've been considering getting a traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena, but after reading this I'm wondering if I shouldn't try the more traditional one that you mentioned in the article, the Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. That sounds like it might have a richer taste.

Which one do you think I should go for?


What an interesting article. Like you said, I had no idea that there were actually two types of balsamic vinegar.

I had seen some aged balsamic vinegar of Modena in the store the other day, and was wondering what was so special about it -- now I know!

Thanks for an interesting and informative article.


There are some questions being asked about lead content in balsamic vinegar, especially balsamic vinegar from Modena. Since the process of making balsamic vinegar takes so long, and the containers where the vinegar is produced might contain lead, a small amount might actually leak into the vinegar.

The other possibility is that the grapes themselves might absorb lead from the soil.

All of this is not sufficient enough to cause any problems, or health risks.

In addition, balsamic vinegar of Modena is so expensive that most likely it is not used in big quantities anyway.

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