Balsamic vinegar is made from entire crushed grapes (including the skin, seeds, and stems) that have been boiled down and matured for at least two years. When it’s at its best, it’s an elixir of sweetness and sourness that can change even the most basic of dishes.
Modena and Reggio Emilia, which are located just west of Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy, produce the best balsamic vinegars. It is from the Latin word balsamum that the name “balsamic” was coined. Balsamic vinegar was developed in the 18th century when households began aging their best vinegar in wood barrels, or batteria, and the process was referred to as “age” in Italian.
Andrea Bezzecchi, proprietor of Acetaia San Giacomo in Novellara, argues that “confusion is the essential word for balsamic” nowadays. You may get balsamic vinegar created anywhere, and it’s not always a genuine product.”
Balsamic vinegar stamped DOP or PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) is the best option if you’re looking for the real stuff. Aceto balsamico tradizionale is also known as traditional balsamic vinegar. To mark the birth of a child, families in Modena and Reggio Emilia brew an unique batteria and give it to their daughter or son years later as a wedding gift. This vinegar can only be found in Modena and Reggio Emilia. To get your hands on just a few drops, you’ll have to shell out hundreds of dollars.
Throughout her family history, Mariangela Montanari has made balsamic vinegar in the Modena area. La Cà dal Non (grandpa’s house in the Modenese dialect) vinegar is made by her. “Balsamico is part of the city’s identity,” says Montanari. “The product can age indefinitely… ” Despite the fact that my great-grandfather has long since passed away, his spirit lives on in our vinegar.
Local trebbiano and lambrusco varieties are harvested in late September or early October, when they are at their ripest and sweetest, to produce traditional balsamic vinegar. According to Montanari, “the principle of our firm is to work solely with cooked grape must from the grapes that we harvest ourselves”
The unfiltered must is then slowly boiled in a lidless vat after being soft-pressed. Balsamic vinegar must be matured for at least 12 years before it can be considered the best in the world. If you don’t have a lot of space or time to work with, you’ll have to pay a price.
As a result of this, no barrel is ever totally depleted of its vinegar content. For great sherries and ports, the solera aging procedure is a good analogy. Because of the evaporation that happens through the barrel walls, the vinegar gets more concentrated with time.
Wine vinegar and cooked grape must are blended together to produce Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP, which is widely available. Protected geographical indicator (IGP) indicates that the vinegar was made and bottled in Modena, Italy, even if the grapes are typically picked in other parts of Italy and Europe.
Top 5 Balsamic Vinegar: Editor Recommended
You can tell whether a bottle of cheap supermarket balsamic vinegar lacks the IGP accreditation by looking at the ingredients: In addition to wine vinegar, thickeners and coloring will be added to low-quality grape must.
Authentic tradizionale aceto balsamico can command a high price. Other balsamics, on the other hand, have a deep, layered flavor that is both balanced and satisfying to the palate. A sampling of our favorites, from big-ticket purchases to everyday kitchen necessities.
The 7 Best Balsamic Vinegar America’s Test Kitchen Reviews:
1. Acetaia San Giacomo Saba 8.5 Ounce
- Saba is an organic condiment obtained by slow cooking local grape must...
- Saba sauce has a refreshing flavor and thick consistency, sweet to the...
- Contains no thickeners, sweeteners or dyes- just grape must.
- Andrea Bezzecchi of Acetaia San Giacomo is recognized as an...
This balsamic is a highlight because of the clean, cooked grape must of local lambrusco and trebbiano grapes, as well as years of tradition and care. Traditional wooden barrels made of four different types of wood are used for the next 25 years of aging, which begins after being cooked over an open fire and reduced.
He is the current manager of production at the Corte Faragosa, a farmhouse in the countryside of Reggio Emilia that has been around since the mid-1500s. Perfectionist Bezzecchi obsessively studies every aspect of this concoction, which is full of dried figs, luscious cherries, and creamy caramel, to produce it.
2. Balsamic Vinegar La Dispensa di Amerigo
- 8.8 fluid ounce (250 mililiter) - Glass Bottle - Pack of 2
- La dispensa di Amerigo 5 year Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is made from...
- The must is cooked slowly and then develops character by aging in...
- The older the balsamic, the greater the depth and richness of flavor.
Amerigo and Agnese started a trattoria outside of Bologna more than 80 years ago using traditional recipes from their native Emilia-Romagna, and now they’re selling a little piece of their heart’s desire back to the public.
Local grapes are used to make their balsamic vinegar, which is then aged for a minimum of three years in wooden barrels. It’s a wonderful deal for less than $20 because it’s made with only wine vinegar and grape must and no other additives. To marinate chicken or drizzle over couscous, its subtle taste is ideal.
3. Traditional Balsamic Vinegar”Extravecchio” DOP Modena Balsamico
- Tradizional Balsamic Vinegar
- from Modena in Emilia Romagna
- Coveted Gold Cap, 100 ml
- Minimum of 25 years -- and far beyond!
For her trademark vinegar, Montanari chose to name it after her father, a kind and compassionate guy who passed on his passion for balsamic vinegar to her. More than 25 years of aging in different oak barrels help bring out the full taste of the native grape must, which is the sole ingredient in our Modenese balsamic vinegar.
Using cherrywood for the final aging batteria produces tart, sweet fruit notes. According to Montanari, the sweetness and acidity don’t overwhelm each other. If you’re in the mood for something simple, like grilled fish, perfectly ripe peaches, or vanilla gelato, this is the balsamic for you.
4. Acetaia Leonardi Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Aged 3 Years
- Contains 1 Pack of Acetaia Leonardi 3 year aged Balsamic Vinegar...
- This Acetaia Leonardi balsamic vinegar is aromatic with hints of sweet...
- Use in making salad dressings and marinades
- Brush over grilled fruit or in deglazing a roasting pan
This sticky, delicious balsamic is made from only grape must and wine vinegar. In order to make a vinegar that comes up to the Leonardi family name, the Leonardi family follows traditional methods from the time they began cultivating their own grapes and creating vinegar in the 18th century until they bottle the finished product. Tomatoes, pork loin, and ribeye may all benefit from this bright, dried fruit-flavored vinaigrette.
5. Colavita Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP
- AGED for 3 years in a series of oak, cherry, and walnut barrels
- HIGH LEVEL of cooked grape must (55%)
- CERTIFIED product of Modena, Italy
- AROMATIC vinegar with a rich and intense flavor
This vinegar, which is made from wine vinegar, grape must, and caramel coloring, is a terrific, inexpensive, and savory alternative for cooking. In spite of the fact that it’s still of the highest caliber (made in Modena from trebbiano grapes) and contains more than double the quantity of grape must necessary by Italian law for IGP certification, this wine nevertheless tastes great. Add it to slow-cooked soups and beans, use it to deglaze meat sauces, or use it to season roasted potatoes with a ton of garlic.
6. Sanniti Saba Cooked Grape Must
- Saba, or cooked grape must, is the precursor to balsamic vinegar. The...
- The taste is acidic yet very sweet, with a thick, syrupy texture....
- Sanniti Saba Cooked Grape Must is produced and bottled by the Bellei...
- 8.50 fluid ounces
A balsamic taste without the harsh acid bite can be achieved by boiling must over a direct flame until it is reduced to a third of its original volume, a process known as sapa, vin cotto, or mosto cotto.
Using the same high-quality grapes that go into the production of their balsamic vinegar, Acetaia San Giacomo’s organic saba is brimming with deep caramelized tastes and is perfect for dipping crusty bread in.
7. Balsamic vinegar with the best white balsamic vinegar flavor: Blazing Bella
- A sweet and thick white balsamic, Blazing Bella white balsamic vinegar...
- On salads and fresh produce, it is an excellent topping.
- For dessert try drizzling it on fresh fruit!
- 16.9 Fl Oz (Pack of 1) - White Balsamic Vinegar
As a result of its lack of exposure to the traditional method of open-flame cooking in copper kettles, white balsamic vinegar lacks the rich, dark color of traditional balsamic (or flavor). White wine vinegar and white grape must are combined in the newer condiment, which is then boiled at a low temperature to prevent discoloration.
Compared to conventional balsamic vinegar, this one has a milder flavor but has the same rich sweetness. Using just white wine vinegar and grape must (with no additional flavorings or colorings), Blazing Bella has been creating balsamic vinegar in Modena since 1889.
It is then matured in chestnut, oak, and juniper barrels. You may use it in vinaigrettes and with delicate fish since it won’t “stain” light-colored meals with black balsamic.
Buying Guide: What to Consider When Choosing Balsamic Vinegar
Traditional balsamic vinegar is matured for at least 25 years in oak barrels. It’s like wine or whiskey, in that it becomes better and better as it ages. Vinegar ages can only be approximated because barrels contain vinegar from several years. According to Montanari, balsamic “grows and changes” each year. To produce balsamic vinegar, “you have to appreciate the importance of time in a fast-paced environment.”
b) Production Method
Grape must is made by pressing or crushing the squeezed or crushed grapes. Prior to fermentation (which would begin the winemaking process), this must is heated and boiled to create a concentrate, which is then placed in an oak barrel where it will mature for years or even decades.
c) Volume and Packaging
To ensure the quality of your balsamic, look for the DOP or IGP seal on the bottle. Since its introduction in 1987, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP has been packaged by the consortium (rather than the producer) in an unique 100-milliliter bottle designed by Italian car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro.
d) Country of Origin
Balsamic vinegar, which hails from Italy, is often regarded as the best in the world. Vinegar that is “fully balanced, with a lingering sweet and sour flavor, very clean, and entirely distinct” is the result of a combination of tradition, terroir, and manufacturing processes, adds Montanari.
Frequently Asked Question
Q: How can you spot a high-quality balsamic vinegar?
In addition to looking for the DOP and IGP seals, the ingredient list on the bottle should be examined. According to Montanari, a superior product has a shorter list. Cooked grape must is the preferred starting element.
Lastly, a quality balsamic vinegar isn’t going to be viscous. Because it’s thick, Bezzecchi says it hasn’t aged, but rather been concentrated.
Q: What are some creative ways to use balsamic vinegar, beyond salad dressings?
To use classic balsamico, Bezzecchi suggests saving it for the very end of meal preparation, such as when using fresh truffle. When used as an aperitif or digestif, Montanari says it “cleans your tongue before or after a meal” with a few drops “pure on a spoon.”
Balsamic vinegar and strawberries are a traditional pairing, but according to Montanari, the acid in the vinegar brings out “an explosion of fruit tastes” with any ripe fruit, including peaches and cherries. Drizzled over grilled vegetables, omelets, steak, and vanilla ice cream, a good balsamic vinegar is a delicious addition to any meal.
Q: How long does balsamic vinegar last?
The answer, according to Bezzecchi, is “very much forever”. “Its high acid content makes it extremely safe and stable.” Avoid storing your balsamic vinegar near an oven or stove to preserve its characteristics.
The history of balsamic vinegar is steeped in a feeling of location and time, making it a genuinely distinctive product. However, don’t be put off by its opulence. If you can afford a $100 bottle, go ahead and relish every mouthful, taking in the deep, velvety, almost eerie sour-sweet flavor. Glaze ribs, sprinkle peaches on a grill, add dressing to salads, stir into risotto and serve with ribbons of smooth prosciutto using the less costly types. They’ll offer your meal a rich, complex taste that’s hard to get anywhere else.