Traditional Balsamic Vinegar

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Best Balsamic Vinegar - the big competition

The annual Palio chooses the best balsamic vinegar

Medals, grapes, awards, seals and other quality symbols - who is not familiar with these from the labels on the numerous bottles of balsamic vinegar available in grocery stores? Testing institutes all over Europe regularly organize tests and select 10 or sometimes 20 candidates of this commercial product in order to then make their big test judgment - often without specialists from the field, only laboratory values, the opinion of the editors and the market environment decide. Many people do not know that the best balsamic vinegar in the world is chosen once a year in June. A contest of superlatives, which puts all balsamic tests in the shade. Thousands of samples from more than 1000 participants are professionally tasted, scored and documented every year. However, it is hardly reported - the reason: you can not buy the balsamic of the winners!

Award ceremony of the Palio di San Giovanni with winner Maurizio Fini as Best Balsamic Vinegar 2023

The Palio di San Giovanni is THE competition when it comes to choosing the best balsamic vinegar in the world in 2023 (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP). These superlatives can be spoken of because the Palio takes place in the area where the balsamic vinegar originated, the vinegar producers compete directly against each other, and the balsamic vinegar is tested by experienced tasters from the region. The Palio takes place annually at the end of June. This year's winner was chosen on 25.06.2023.

Best Balsamic Vinegar 2023: The Winners Award for the winner of the best balsamic vinegar: golden teaspoon

The best balsamic vinegar in 2023 comes from Maurizio Fini. He won the 57th Palio di San Giovanni with 322.281 points out of a maximum of 400 achievable. A special winner: Fini has been Grand Master of the Consorteria dell'Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale Spilamberto since 2017, the organizers of the competition, and was part of this year's tasting team. He has been participating in the Palio for years and is an integral part of the balsamic vinegar scene in Modena. As the winner, Fini received the official diploma of the Consorteria, a golden teaspoon and the "Torrione di Spilamberto", a bronze of the famous tower of the city walls in Spilamberto. Last-mentioned will also be presented to the other 11 finalists.

Official ranking

1. Maurizio Fini with 322.281 points

2. Moreno Zoboli with 318.728 points

3. Emilio Belluzzi with 316.283 points

4. Sara Baldazzini with 316.250 points

5. Roberto & Stefania Antichi with 315.261 points

6. Stefano Pivetti with 315.244 points

7. Deodato Vandelli with 314.539 points

8. Enzo Lei with 313.561 points

9. Alessandro Bellei with 313.483 points

10. Villiam Zironi with 313.028 points

11. Ivan Braidi with 312.811 points

12. Gianmarco Muratori with 312.622 points

The competition is held in the framework of the city festival 'Fiera San Giovanni' in Spilamberto, Modena, and this year for the 57th time chose the best traditional balsamic vinegar. This year, over 1600 of the best vinegar producers took part in the competition. The more than 20,000 samples were tested and evaluated by 284 tasters from the Consorteria dell'Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena Spilamberto. The composition of the points and detailed list of all participants can be found on the website of the Consorteria

Competition guidelines

The testing of the samples takes several months. After a first tasting, a second round of tasting takes place until the 72 semi-finalists are determined and then the 12 best traditional balsamic vinegars are identified. The 12 finalists are then visited at home by two inspectors. At that point, the inspectors are the only ones who know the names of the producers. The champions remain anonymous until the award ceremony. The task of the inspectors is to verify that the sample corresponds to the battery from which the balsamic vinegar was taken.

The scoring takes place according to strict guidelines set by the Consorteria dell'Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale Spilamberto. Visual, olfactory and gustatory characteristics are tested. For the visual characteristics, attention is paid to the consistency and color of the balsamic vinegar. The focus for the olfactory is on the directness, intensity, adhesiveness and acidity. Acidity is also evaluated in the taste characteristics. In addition, it matters how complex, varied and intense the traiditional balsamic vinegar tastes. Scores are awarded for each category. Overall, a maximum score of 400 can thus be achieved.

History of the 'Palio di San Giovanni'

The 'Fiera San Giovanni' is a festival in Spilamberto to honor the patron saint of the city 'San Giovanni Battista'. The main focus is the exhibition of typical italian agricultural and handcrafted local products. This attracts thousands of visitors every year who are interested in traditional products around Modena. In 1967 a competition was added to the festival. The 'Palio di San Giovanni' was created, in which the producers can compete with their traditional balsamic vinegar against each other. Since then, the Palio has been held annually (with a few exceptions).

Torrione di Spilamberto: medieval tower in Spilamberto

Palio Matildico & Superpalio

Reggio Emilia also hosts a competition where vinegar producers compete to produce the best traditional balsamic vinegar. Once a year at the end of November, the Palio Matildico takes place in Scandiano, Reggio Emilia. The difference to the Palio di San Giovanni: traditional balsamic vinegar from Reggio Emilia is also allowed to compete. It is organized by the Confraternita dell'Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale Scandiano. The winner is awarded the "Botticello d'Argento" (silver bottle).

In addition to the two annual Palios, there is also a very exclusive competition: the Superpalio. This special competition only takes place every 10 years. In each case, the 12 finalists of the previous 'Palio di San Giovanni' compete against each other in a kind of ultimate competition where the best is being crowned. The last Super Palio took place in 2016. The winner was Patrizia Rossi from Fiorano Modenese.

Experts' opinion: Best balsamic only from Italy

Uwe Tippmann, an specialist of balsmaic vinegar, on the best balsamic 2023:

"Compared to the cross-regional product tests, which are carried out by various testing institutes, the Palio in Spilamberto with its large number of submitted samples is by far the largest tasting event for balsamic vinegar worldwide. The event clearly distinguishes itself from industrial balsamic vinegar production and highlights the regional culture as well as the passion for this unique product."