The term DOP is a designation of authenticity. It was created by the European Union as a way to signify that a product was made in its designated region in a specific manner. Balsamic vinegar with this designation is almost always of high quality but typically comes with an added cost.
The certification is typically the most straightforward way for someone new to balsamic vinegar to know that they're purchasing a high quality product.
However the certification does have its drawbacks by increasing the cost of the balsamic vinegar certified and limiting the variety of balsamic vinegars produced.
Not all high quality balsamic vinegars are DOP.
This is due to the fact that the certification imposes a number of restrictions on the producer. Many of those restrictions directly impact the cost for the consumer.
For example, bottle sizes are limited to 100mL which creates a higher entry cost by forcing consumers to purchase a larger quantity.
The bottle design itself is patented by the consortium and the consortium maintains strict control over the bottling proccess, labeling, etc.
Lastly, the consortium reduces the variety of balsamic vinegars produced by only allowing a few predefined lengths of aging to be displayed on the label.
The specific ages allowed to be used in labeling varies based upon the consortium that’s certifying it (one consortium for Modena and one for Reggio Emilia).
Reggio Emilia allows for 12yrs, 18yrs, & 25yrs
If a vinegar house in Reggio Emilia were to produce a vinegar that is aged for 20 years like the one sold here, they would be required to label it as 18yrs or more. Effectively dissuading producers from aging a product anywhere outside the the precisely defined years.
This is why when you see a very rare and special vinegar aged for 40 years, it will not be labeled as DOP, as there isn't a designation for that length of aging.
This is not to say that someone who purchases a bottle of DOP aceto balsamico tradizionale is making the incorrect choice. The certification is sucessful at ensuring quality within a very precisely defined boundry. However I do not consider DOP the "end all be all" certification as many great vinegar houses choose not to pursue the certification as a result of these conditions.
Antica Acetaia Mandrio's products are not DOP and that is because of the high costs associated with having such certification. It is a cost that the owner of the vinegar house choses to avoid as he did not wish to pass additional costs down to the consumer in a quest to have a particular label.
Instead his product is driven to perfection not by a certification but as a result of pride. I chose to work with Anselmo and his vinegar house specifically because of the passion that he has for his product.
My family and I have been fortunate enough to try many different vinegars in the pursuit of bringing the best balsamic vinegar to US. Once we had our hands on Anselmo's product our other bottles have since sat in the cabinet unused.
If you are in the US be sure to check out our collection of authentic balsamic vinegar here!