‘Balsamic’ Vinegar Can Come from Anywhere

EU court decides it’s not a protected term.

Vinegar in front of hob with steaming pot

Balsamic vinegar bottle in a kitchen

Vinegar in front of hob with steaming pot

When you buy Champagne, you know it’s been bottled in or around the Champagne region of France. Gorgonzola and Mozzarella di Bufala Campana cheeses can only be labeled as such if they come from specific regions of Italy. The same cannot be said of “balsamic” vinegar.

The European Union’s highest court has rebuffed an attempt by vinegar producers in the Modena province of Italy, an area famous for its balsamic vinegar, to protect its use of the word “balsamic” and to prevent others from using the term for vinegars made elsewhere.

While the EU had previously, in 2009, allowed the producers to protect use of the phrase “Balsamic Vinegar from Modena” as a “geographical indication” in food labeling, it declined, last week, to extend that protection to the term “balsamic” as a standalone descriptor.

Since 1992, the EU has allowed certain products to restrict the use of nomenclature under two designations a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and the more restricted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) – in cases when the quality or traits of the item are intricately connected to the geographical area in which it is produced.

The court has ruled that "Aceto Balsamico di Modena" and “Balsamic Vinegar from Modena” – along with "Aceto balsamico tradizionale di Reggio Emilia" and “Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Reggio Emilia” – can be so labeled only if they come from specific regions, but “balsamic” vinegar is not so protected. In other words, the balsamic vinegar you put on your salad may come from anywhere.

"The term 'aceto' [vinegar] is a common term and the term 'balsamico' [balsamic] is an adjective that is commonly used to refer to a vinegar with a bitter-sweet flavor," the European Court of Justice ruled, according to the BBC.

Mariangela Grosoli, the president of the Consortium for Protection of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, issued a statement saying the group considered the court’s decision “to be totally unjust.”

You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, the saying goes … and maybe win more court cases, too.

Photo: iStock

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