Consortia Guarding an Ancient Tradition    
The quality of balsamic vinegar that is produced from Trebbiano grapes by the traditional artisanal method is guarded zealously by two consortia of producers.
     La Consorteria Dell'Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, headquartered at the Villa Fa briani in Spilamberto, was founded in 1969. Every year on June 24, La Consorteria hosts a competition known as Il Palio. A group of highly trained assaggiatori, or tasters, collects samples from all the member producers. In the last sampling there were over a thousand contenders. The assaggiatori use an evaluation code based on the subtle variations of sight, taste, and smell. Twelve contenders are chosen in the first round, but finally only one prize is granted by a panel of the master tasters. However, every single contestant is given a copy of their evaluation so they may improve their own vinegar.
     A second association, the Consorzio Tra Produttori di Aceto Balsamico, was founded in Modena in 1979. The Consorzio monitors the quality of all stages of production, from the grapes, to the barrels, to the final balsamico. It must give its seal of approval to any vinegar that aspires to be sold as Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. Tasters trained by the Consorteria in Spilamberto are the final arbiters, following a rigorous point system. If approved, the vinegar receives the pink seal of the Consorzio. All vinegar that is approved by the Consorzio is also bottled in a distinctive bottle, designed by Giorgietto Giugiaro of Ferrari design fame.
     If a balsamic vinegar does not bear the seal, there is no guarantee that it is authentic, and in fact it probably is the so-called balsamic vinegar that is mass-produced and available in supermarkets. It is the constant vigilance of the Consorzio and the Consorteria that guarantee the continuation and the authenticity of this very unique condiment.