Just like there are different classifications of olive oil you might encounter, there are also different levels of balsamic vinegars.
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP - DOP stands for Designated of Protected Origin. This label is important and reinforced by law, because it protects the high quality balsamic vinegar produced in Modena and neighboring Reggio Emilia, the only two consortia who produce true traditional balsamic vinegar. True traditional balsamic vinegar is made using the method previously described, except that it is kept absolutely pure; no wine vinegar is allowed to be added.
Producers in the regions can submit their product to a panel of Master Tasters within the Consortium of Producers of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (CPABTM). If the product scores more than 250 points, the producer is allowed to bring the product to the Consortium who actually fills the bottles and is labeled with a specific label governed by law. This balsamic easily sells for $100 for 100ml. This vinegar is never used for cooking. It is far too prized and expensive, and is often served drop by drop on a spoon after a meal or sometimes on a small piece of cheese.
Traditional Style Balsamic Condimento of Modena PGI* - PGI stands for Protected Geographic Indication and is the label under which the balsamic vinegars at Prairie Oils & Vinegars fall. Since DOP balsamic was such an expensive and scarcely available product, a few stores in Modena began the practice of blending it with a very small amount of premium quality aged red wine vinegar (less than 2%). It is made in the exact methods of the first label, but is not approved by the CPABTM due to the addition of the red wine vinegar.
*This is the category of Balsamic Vinegar we stock at Prairie Oils & Vinegars. We encourage you to come to our tasting room to enjoy a sample of this rich Condimento. Many are pleasantly surprised at how closely it resembles the DOP label, and yet how affordable it is to bring to your table.
Balsamic Vinegar of Modena - These commercial-grade products are usually what you find in your regular grocery stores. They are made of wine vinegar, and may include the addition of colouring, caramel and sometimes thickeners like guar gum or cornflour to artificially simulate the sweetness and thickness of the aged Traditional Balsamic Condimento of Modena. The manufacturing of these vinegars varies greatly, can be highly industrialized to increase output, and the aging process is often foregone.