December 18, 2012

Horse 1417 - Balsamic Vinegar "Of Modena"

Whilst wandering around Coles and looking for other kinds of salad dressing, I noticed something for which I have no explanation for its existence. There were seven kinds of Balsamic Vinegar Of Modena. This is distinct from regular Balsamic Vinegar and Red Wine Vinegar.
At first I wondered it this is meant to infer that Balsamic Vinegar of Lazio or Balsamic Vinegar of Torino is somehow inferior or something. It turns out that the rules for geographical indications and traditional specialities within the EU are far more complex and stringently applied than I thought.

There are rules within the EU which put geographic protection around certain names. You can not for instance call a sparkling white wine a champagne unless it comes from the Champagne Region of France because they have applied for naming protection. It almost happened that under the same regulations that Newcastle Brown Ale was in danger of losing the name when Interbrew closed down their Tyneside brewery. People and companies take this sort of thing very seriously indeed.
Three such marks exist, being the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and the Traditional Speciality Guarantee (TSG). All of these Balsamic Vinegars Of Modena carry a PGI which tells the consumer that at least some of the processing or production of the product has taken place within the determined geographical area, in this case Modena.
I personally associate Modena not with Balsamic Vinegar but high performance sports cars. De Tomaso, Maserati, Pagani, Lamborghini and perhaps most famously Ferrari, all call Modena their home. Somehow I don't that any of them would put the PGI label on their cars.

I assume that the various makers of vinegar decided to get together and have a meeting to choose what sort of vinegar that they all wanted to make and went with that. My problem with this I suppose is that unlike say, wine or beer or bread or cheese, you don't tend to drink loads of vinegar. Although it could be done, no-one is going to sit down for a pint of vinegar unless they were stark raving mad. How distinctive is Balsamic Vinegar of Modena as opposed to regular Balsamic Vinegar to warrant paying an extra 40% for it?
In this case Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is made from wine vinegar as per normal but instead of being aged like "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale" which is only made from wine vinegar and then stored in barrels for a minimum of 12 years (or longer),  Balsamic Vinegar of Modena has had caramel or other flavours to simulate the more traditional product. Instead of laying down bottles for a dozen years, the makers can churn out barrel after barrel in a matter of days.

I wonder if Balsamic Vinegar of Modena another one of these trendy foodie things like truffles which is overrated specifically for the purpose of making people pay more? If Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is a Veblen Good, how would we find out without buying it?
It would be somewhat ironic if the people of Modena all bought Balsamic Vinegar from outside their city because they knew that it was a rip-off. It would be akin to the people of Batlow buying apples from Tumut because suddenly there was a premium for Apples of Batlow.

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