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The making of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena – III

We are now going to weigh our batch. So we’ll put the demijohn on the scales.

“The Protection Consortium is the guardian of the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena”

We’re getting the pH metre ready, which will measure the acidity level in our product. But right now we are about to conduct the density test. The device you see here is a refractometer, which refracts light to help identify the density of the liquid.

Now we’ll take a sample of our balsamic vinegar – we only need a few drops. First of all, we weigh the sample that we are going to use to check the acidity. We need approximately one gram. We put a drop in the refractometer as well, so we can measure the density. This instrument is extremely sensitive, as you can see. Now we have our gram.

We’ll now use the refractometer to measure the density of our product. First of all, Felicia will dilute the vinegar in water to create a solution which will later be labelled by the producer. By adding this distilled water, our balsamic vinegar is obviously diluted down. We drop in a magnet which will help to mix the solution. You can see there we have an electrode and a thermometer to measure the temperature. Whilst we gauge the pH of our balsamic vinegar, let’s have a look at its density. Our device is showing that it is 69.8%. It has a weight of 1.356. We’ll put that on our form. Our Brix reading is the specific relative weight.

We can now close and seal our demijohn, and sign the seal. It’s now ready to have a sample taken by the regulatory body and tasted by an expert taster. Now we need to complete this form, which will identify our batch. Once we have finished measuring the acidity, we can take our vinegar to the storage room where it will be kept until it is evaluated by the regulatory board, and subsequently bottledif it is deemed to meet the required standard.

The acidity level is shown as weight by weight, and the result here is 5.17. The minimum legal requirement is 4.5, so we are comfortably over that threshold.

Our batch can now be taken to the storage room, where it will be kept with all the other batches that are waiting to be bottled.

These bacthes are all quite small. The product is of high value, but it is produced in small quantities.

My name is Enrico Corsini and I am the President of the regulatory body that certifies traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena D.O.P. Here we are in our offices. Behind me are bottles of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from the various producers who come here to bottle their products under the supervision of the “CERN” regulatory body, as required by law. The products are measured in terms of their density and acidity, and then undergo a sensory examination before a decision is made on whether to certify them or not.

“Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena: the bottle design was created by Giugiaro”

We have two types of traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena, one that is aged for at least 12 years, and the so-called “king”, like the one I have here, which must be aged for at least 25 years. This shows just how valuable the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar product is, and why it is more expensive than some other balsamic vinegars you find for sale. This bottle design was created by Giugiaro, and it is the official bottle for Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena since the end of the 1980s. Only certified, authentic, Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena can use this bottleif it’s not in this bottle, it is not the authentic product.

The role of the regulatory body is to safeguard the product. Over recent years, we have worked to oppose a series of imitation products, and also to promote our traditional product across Italy as well as globally. We have done this in conjunction with other regulatory bodies to form a brand called “Piacere Modena” which includes all D.O.P and D.O.C products originating from Modena.

Hello, my name is Silvia Salaris and I am an inspector. This morning I am in the storage room at the bottling centre for Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, and I am about to take samples from each of these containers so they can be sent to be tasted.

Here is one batch that has been conveniently sealed by its producer. We will now unseal it and proceed to take the samples that will be sent for tasting.

We take 3 bottles – the first is for the tasting board, the second is for the producer in case of any disagreement and the third will be sealed and will remain at the bottling centre for approximately 10 years as an example of the product which has been made commercially available.

We’ll now seal this bottle with a special cable tie that has an alphanumeric code.

I’m sealing this bottle with a cork because we want it to have the same characteristics as the product that is sent to market. This bottle will stay here at the centre for 10 years – the length of time the product stays on the market – as a consumer guarantee.

Now that we have finished taking the samples for the tasting board, I am going to register the alphanumeric codes from the seals on our bottles. Now let’s go and anonymize these samples.

To anonymize the samples, we put a number on an empty flask and then add the content from our sealed bottle. The samples are then completely anonymous – the only the person that knows which one is which is the employee that has taken the samples.

My name is Guidone Loretta and I am an expert taster and member of the tasting board for Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena D.O.P. The board usually consists of five members who taste each sample and complete a form to evaluate the product’s smell, visual appearance, and flavour.

We start with visual appearance. We hold the flask in front of a candle in order to properly observe the colour, density, and clarity of the product. Using the candle enables us to give a very accurate evaluation.

“Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena – There are different evaluation grades for each aspect: the colour, the density and the clarity”

There are different evaluation grades for each aspect: the colour, the density and the clarity. The ideal result is consistent syrupiness, a rich dark brown, and with bright and intense clarity. These are the principal characteristics a Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena needs to have.

Let’s start. This isn’t a very clean vinegar, you can see that because it has quite a blond colour, it is quite amber-coloured, which isn’t a very positive thing. It doesn’t have good clarityI cannot see the candle at all through the vinegar.

Let’s move on to examine its smell. We will start with its frankness, which in this case is fair. The maximum grade for finesse would be excellent, in this example it is moderate. In terms of intensity, the smell should be rich and lingering, but as this sample does not have a high level of frankness or finesse it doesn’t get a high mark here either. The acidity is good.

Now let’s move on to taste. To clean our mouths between tastings we have a cracker and some water. First of all, we will evaluate this sample’s fullness. This one does have fullness, but it has a high level of sugar, which means that it isn’t as full-bodied as a Traditional Balsamic Vinegar should be. Its intensity is slight, rather than wide. Its taste is pleasant, but not to the highest degree. Its harmony is unbalanced – meaning there isn’t a good balance between sweet and acidic. The acidity is again good.

I will add together my evaluations for smell, appearance and taste to give my final evaluation for this sensory analysis.

I have given this sample a total of 247, which is a moderate score. The minimum score for a product that has been aged for 12-24 years is 229, so this sample is probably quite young rather than extra-aged.

The tasting board have now finished, so each member will now come and sit next to me and dictate the scores they have given each sample. Only those which obtain the minimum necessary score will be given authorisation to be bottled. The final scores are calculated based on various criteria. Sometimes we put a duplicate sample in with those that are being evaluated, which helps us to ensure consistency of judgement from the board members. If the taster gives the same score to the duplicate sample, it shows that their evaluation skills are consistent. If the scores are different, then the tasting is declared void.


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