Some ‘of History

When Virgilio in the Georgiche refers to sapa (saba) and defrutum1 he suggests that the Romans already reduced the musts at different densities thus resulting in concentrations that were near to ferment and turn into vinegar. …“Solet acrescere”2

It can there be assumed that this way of using cooked must along with acidification could represent the first stirrings of traditional balsamic vinegar as we know it.

There are many historical sources that attest the interest in this “very excellent vinegar”, “formidable balm, which is extolling the goodness and health benefits”3. We report at the end of this brief introduction a bibliography, certainly not exhaustive, to learn more about this subject.

The adjective BALSAMICO appears for the first time in two historical sources of the eighteenth century4.

The first one tells of an expense incurred for “tuck in balsamic vinegar”. The second one is an epistle in which it is named clearly the product obtained by cooking the must, with subsequent acidification and aging in wood barrels: “io vi promisi mandarvi dal (ducato di) Modena dell’eccellente aceto balsamico giacchè altro simile altre volte non vi era dispiaciuto”5.

Among the various sources, we like to recall one most of all. In 1792 the Duke Ercole III d’Este as a gift for the coronation of Francis I of Austria as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, sends to Frankfurt a bottle (balsamic vinegar)…6. In our view, this gesture attests the “consideration” and “nobility” it was attributed to balsamic vinegar at the end of the eighteenth century.

However the balsamic vinegar was not so well known to most of the population. In fact it was produced by methods closely guarded as family secrets and it was stored under the roofs of the aristocratic families (as well as under the roofs of the Este court of the Duchy of Modena). It was in fact an integral part of the family assets, so as to be donated as a “dowry” to their daughters about to marry, bequest or inheritance to posterity. Only after the completion of the Napoleonic period, the “wellas” became a precious commodity exchange to pay debts of the imperial French bourgeoisie and the richest could thus “bear” to get hold of an aristocratic symbol.

In fact shortly after the balsamic vinegar becomes an habitual consumption of Modena and Reggio Emilia households and its reputation, and its use is more and more an “appanage” of connoisseurs outside the borders of Emilia…


  1. Georgiche – see “” – History in Balsamic Vinegar Traditional of Modena
  2. Roman writer Columella
  3. Extract freely from the request made by Henry III, who went to Italy in 1406, to the Marquis of Tuscany Boniface of Canossa III, father of the famous Matilda.
    See Life of Matilda of Canossa – Donizone Paul Golinelli (eds) Milan Jaca Book 2008
  4. Rubiera date March 11, 1747, sources of the Duchy of Modena, lists an expense agrarian
  5. Letter of Lazzaro Spallanzani the end of 1789 to Professor Leopoldo Caldani of Bologna. Sources of the Duchy of Modena
  6. The age-old tradition of balsamic, Spilamberto Editions of the Coterie in 2011


  • The age-old tradition of balsamic, Spilamberto Editions of the Coterie in 2011
  • The age-old tradition of balsamic vinegar, Modena Artestampa 1999