Th e authenticity of D.O.P. vinegars is safeguarded by the Consortium of Producers of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Reggio Emilia. Traditional Balsamic is classed into one of three categories depending on the assessment of the tasters: Oro (Gold), Argento (Silver) or Aragosta (Crimson).
These are the colours of the three labels applied to the typical little bottles of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia. The labels indicate three different product qualities, obtained by ageing the vinegar for different lengths of time, with 12 years being the minimum. This is a choice made by the Consortium of Producers of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia that dates back to its foundation in 1986 and is designed to allow consumers to make an informed purchase. In 2000, the European Community, as an addition to the prestigious recognition that gave Traditional Balsamic vinegar of Reggio Emilia Protected Designation of Origin status, drafted a standard that establishes the following:
• all producers must be certifi ed by an independent Certifi cation Organisation, identifi ed among those recognised by the EC itself and authorised by the Ministry for Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies. This Body carries out checks throughout the production chain and issues a certifi cate only after verifying that the strict production regulations have been fully complied with;
• all products must comply with the density and acidity values indicated in the production regulations, attested to by specifi c tests carried out in laboratories compliant with the ISO/ IEC 17025 standard. These certifi cates must be sent to the Certifi cation Organisation for verifi cation;
• the products to be bottled are tested for suitability and quality features by the Certifi cation Organisation. Anonymous samples undergo a tasting session and organoleptic testing, carried out by a commission of fi ve master tasters, who fi ll in a test sheet with their opinion, expressed by a series of numbers indicating the sensations they perceive from the product;
• products deemed suitable for sale must be bottled in the province of Reggio Emilia, exclusively in the dedicated containers with the shape and size established by the production regulations;
• all the stages in the bottling process must be carried out in the presence of the Certifi cation Organisation, which has the task of checking on how the bottles are fi lled, corked and sealed with wax and, once the process is complete, of delivering the bottles back to the producer, complete with the progressively numbered labels of the appropriate colour that allow for product traceability.
Now, it's time to discover these labels one by one.