Best balsamic vinegar 2018

Table of Contents

Benefits of using Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is not just like any ordinary vinegar, and adding it to your diet will offer great health benefits. And here are the benefits you will enjoy.

Lower cholesterol

High cholesterol levels in the body have been linked with health complications like cardiac arrest, high blood pressure, and obesity among others. Studies have shown that introducing balsamic vinegar to your diet can help keep these cholesterol levels controlled.

Lower blood sugar levels

People with high sugar levels can benefit from taking balsamic vinegar with time. When introduced to your diet, it can maintain your sugar levels in the body by keeping them in check.

Enhances skin health

Balsamic vinegar is rich in antioxidants and acetic acid which are essential for glowing skin. Though the results are not instant, consuming the vinegar for a period of time will help improve your complexion. Note that balsamic vinegar has a rich dark color and should not be applied to the skin.

Promotes healthy digestion

The acetic acid present on balsamic vinegar is rich in probiotics which promote healthy digestion and gut.

Factors to Consider When Buying Balsamic Vinegar

Versatility

While most balsamic brands out there will allow you to pair them with a varied type of dishes, not every product will bring out great taste in every meal. This is why most producers will list the recommended foods for each type of vinegar. Before jumping in to make your selection, you need to know what dishes you can enjoy. The versatility of your vinegar will vary depending on your culinary preferences.

Vinegar type

Balsamic vinegar is available in three different types which include the commercial grade balsamic vinegars, authentic or traditional balsamic vinegars and Condimento grade balsamic vinegar. Traditional balsamic vinegars are the most expensive among the three and are labeled Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale. Unlike other two types of vinegars, authentic traditional balsamic vinegar does not contain any additives, artificial flavors, colors, thickeners or any preservatives.

Commercial balsamic vinegar is affordable and does not require any aging. They are made using wine vinegar and additives to give it a traditional taste and texture artificially. In addition to this, caramel, additives, and flavors may also be used to intensify its flavor to simulate the traditionally aged type.

Condimento balsamic vinegar, on the other hand, is made by mixing mass produced vinegar with traditionally made type. Usually, Condimento grade vinegar is traditionally aged for less than 12 years. Another way to identify a Condimento grade vinegar is where it is produced. If it is made outside Reggio Emilia, or Modena regardless of its production process, it is definitely a Condimento.

Though the type you choose by the end of the day will depend on personal preferences, we would recommend settling for authentic traditionally made balsamic vinegars. Though they may be slightly higher than the other two types, they will offer you massive health benefits.

However, if you cannot afford a traditional type, settling for Condimento grade vinegar is the best alternative. Always try as much as possible to keep off any brand that has additives, caramel, sweetener, thickener or preservatives as they can cause a negative impact on your health.

Quality

A great way of determining the quality of your vinegar is by having a look at the type of certification. Balsamic vinegar will either have an IGP, DOP or have no identification. If your preferred brand does not have any certified stamp, you should be keen on where it is produced. If it’s outside Italy then it is not a great sign of quality.

Most Italy made balsamic vinegars have certification stamps. Traditionally aged vinegar will have the IGP while Condimento will have a DOP certification. Note that, though Condimento balsamic vinegar is aged traditionally for a lesser period as compared to authentic type, they can serve the same purpose as the authentic vinegar and can be a great addition to your pantry.

In case you happen to settle for the Condimento vinegar, ensure you store it away from strong light and intense flavors.

How to use balsamic vinegar properly

Adding balsamic vinegar to your diet is known to offer significant health benefits. But knowing how to use it properly for different meals will help you get the best out of your vinegar. And here are tips of using your vinegar.

Use the correct amount

The quantity of vinegar you use will vary depending on the type of dish you are preparing. Using excess quantities will ruin your dish.

For balsamic vinegar with 12 years or more aging period, use drop by drop while tracking the flavors. For those under 12 years, you can start with a teaspoon. Note that balsamic vinegar will continue to age as time goes by and its taste may change.

Before using it on any dish, it is highly recommended to pour it on a teaspoon and taste it with the tip of your tongue. This will allow you to determine the right quantity to use.

Type of food

Balsamic vinegar can be used on cooked food or raw vegetables. For best results, you will be required to use it in a special order. When using on meat or any other cooked food, ensure you sprinkle the right quantity when the food is almost ready. This is due to the fact that balsamic vinegar is sensitive to high temperatures and cooking it with food for long will ruin its flavor. It should be the last ingredient to use.

For raw veggies or salads, put salt, balsamic vinegar, and oil in that order. Putting your vinegar first then salt and oil will make it hard for the salt to blend well with the mixture and will also ruin the taste of your vinegar. Using oil first will bar the vinegar flavor from spreading well on the food.

Take caution

If you have different meals, do not put vinegar in every particular food. For instance, if you are cooking meat and have some veggies to accompany the dish, decide which one to flavor but not both. Remember everything in excess will always have an impact and as much as balsamic vinegar is good to your health, it should be used in right amounts.

Frequent Balsamic Vinegar Questions

How long does balsamic vinegar last?

Balsamic vinegar can stay for long without going bad. Without refrigeration, balsamic vinegar can last 3 to 5 years. Exposure to air can deteriorate its quality. Always keep it tightly closed after use in a dark, clean place away from heat and light.

Is balsamic vinegar safe to use after the expiry date?

Manufacturers usually indicate the expiry date for their products and balsamic vinegar is not an exception. However, most of the products when they reach the indicated date, they are not recommended for use but this is not the case with balsamic vinegar. The indicated date on the bottle only shows the time at which the vinegar is at its great quality.

Using it after its expiry date will not have any negative effect but the quality will be slightly lower.

Does balsamic vinegar go bad?

Balsamic vinegar does not go bad, only its quality deteriorates. Sometimes the vinegar may become cloudy but this is not something to worry about. Provided you have stored the product well, a cloudy appearance should not be a cause for alarm.

Is it safe to refrigerate balsamic vinegar?

While balsamic vinegar is not recommended to be stored in light or hot places, they are not also good for the refrigerator. Storing them inside will attract other food smell which will eventually ruin the flavor. Worse still, the vinegar will draw water which will slowly dilute the flavor making it lose its great taste.

Why balsamic vinegar has a cloudy appearance on the bottom?

With time, your vinegar may become cloudy. This is a natural occurrence. The cloudy appearance is usually called “mother of vinegar” and occurs when cellulose from the grapes fiber breakdown. To get rid of it, you can either use a cheesecloth or coffee filter. Using your vinegar with the cloudy mass does not pose any impact or deteriorate its quality.

What makes the best Balsamic Vinegar?

  • A quality balsamic vinegar should meet the industry standards
  • A good balsamic vinegar should bring out an intense flavor in all the recommended dishes
  • A quality balsamic vinegar should be of the right quantity, texture, and color
  • A good balsamic vinegar should serve its intended purpose
  • A good balsamic vinegar should pair with different dishes

Final verdict

Having a bottle of authentic balsamic vinegar in your pantry will spice up your meals and give you memorable culinary experiences. Though the market offers a wide variety of this, you should be keen on which type vinegar you settle for. While we all can’t fit on the same financial capabilities, it is highly recommended to go for the best balsamic vinegar which meets all the industry standards. Though you may spend extra bucks on the product, they are worth it.

Do not fall for poor quality brands. Take advantage of our top quality brands and choose one that matches your culinary needs. Only balsamic vinegar from Italy will give you a true Italian flavor.

10 best balsamic vinegars to always have on hand in your cupboard

A great balsamic vinegar is a true store-cupboard staple – best kept on standby, ready to spruce up sauces and swirl over starters.

But with so many on offer, at such staggeringly different price points – how do you know the best one to buy? Before even tasting balsamic vinegar you’ll be able to glean a lot of information, just from looking at the ingredients and the label.

For example, if you read Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar) di Reggio Emilia and D.O.P. (“Protected Denomination of Origin“) you are guaranteed the ingredient’s quality, you’ll know it’s been through a very rigorous process, and you’ll have a place of origin.

The only ingredient is grape must (freshly crushed fruit juice), mostly from trebbiano grapes, which is then left in a variety of different wood casks – oak, chestnut, cherry, mulberry, ash, and juniper – all of which will impart their distinctive flavours whilst the liquid slowly matures for at least 12 years.

Expert tasters then decide on its ranking with classification following a very strict quality criteria for both production and end product appearance, aroma and taste. It only comes in 100ml bottles, and it is an incredibly precious product. In short, you can expect this to be pretty expensive.

Another label to look out for is Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP Invecchiato (IGP – Protected Geographical Indication meaning the product must come from a specific area surrounding Modena). This is made using age-old craft techniques, blending regional grape-musts mixed with a small percentage of wine vinegar.

The mixture then slowly ages in oak casks and in the finished product acidity must be below 6 per cent. Italian regulations actually forbid to state the years of ageing on the label, just look for the word “invecchiato” (aged). This is certainly a more affordable option for most shoppers.

As for personal choice, it really depends what you’ll be using it for – balsamic vinegar is an ultra-versatile ingredient. Delicious used in salad dressings, it can also be drizzled over soft and hard cheeses, meat, pasta and risottos. Equally delicious but something you might not have considered is pairing it with ice-cream, panna cotta and fresh strawberries.

And just when you thought this miracle product couldn’t get any better, apparently a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar at the end of a meal aids digestion! Try a spoon of the thicker styles at night, just before bed.

When taste-testing our vinegars, we were looking for a smooth balanced flavour, combining acidity and sweetness with plenty of depth. We tried them all neat as well as in a variety of dishes.

When considering which to buy, we’d suggest thinking about how you’re most likely to use this product. Thinner styles are better suited to everyday use, whilst thicker versions are best saved for the finishing touch to very special dishes.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers , but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Il Borgo del Balsamico Italian balsamic vinegar Modena IGP yellow label 250ml: £16, The Red Beetle

The Red Beetle travels around Italy, sourcing authentic ingredients from local suppliers and then pop them on itslovely website for us to buy here in the UK. As you might expect, it has a truly delicious array of goodies, including a top selection of balsamic vinegars. The Il Borgo del Balsamico brand has a nifty colour code which makes selecting the perfect one for you very easy. The yellow one we’ve awarded our Best Buy to is the perfect option for everyday use.

It’s great for fresh salads, can be used to marinate fish or they suggest adding to tempura and eggs benedict as a slightly more unusual (but no less delicious!) way to use this lovely ingredient. The orange one from the same range is slightly thicker, so better suited to adding at the end of a sauce or on top of ravioli, while the red is the top of the range – velvety, thick and silky in consistency, it’s aged in oak for years, and should be saved for the most special dishes.

Buy now

Belazu organic balsamic vinegar of Modena IGP 250ml: £16.45, Belazu

Belazu have a great reputation when it comes to sourcing the best ingredients from across the Mediterranean and this organic balsamic vinegar from Modena is no exception. Matured in a mix of oak, chestnut and juniper barrels for up to 30 months, the resulting dense liquid has taken on a deep colour and a well-rounded, balanced yet highly complex flavour. Elegantly smooth with an obvious sweetness, we’ll be teaming ours with strawberries and ricotta or mopping it up with crusty bread.

Buy now

Guiseppe Guisti 5 gold medals Cubica balsamic vinegar 250ml: £42.99, Selfridges

This may be a little more than we’d normally spend on balsamic vinegar but this is a very special product with a price tag to match. Highly concentrated with notes of black cherries, baked plums, cinnamon and nutmeg, the liquid is aged in small antique barrels which date back to the 1700’s. As such only a very limited quantity is available each year. Add a drop or two at the end of your dish to really savour the complex flavours. The elegant bottle is finished with a red wax seal and the label depicts the 5 gold medals in its name. It’s the champagne equivalent in our round-up – best saved for special occasions.

Buy now

Odysea balsamic vinegar of Modena 250ml: £9.95, Sainsbury’s

Aged for a minimum of 10 years, this is a velvety smooth vinegar, made with a blend of grape varieties. It’s a thicker style and works a treat in tomato-based sauces, with a dark brown chestnut colour which would also create a satisfying swirl on top of risotto. Well balanced acidity, a slightly earthy complexity and a light sweetness – its’ all we could ask for from a balsamic at this price.

Buy now

Riserva bio balsamic vinegar of Modena IPG, Organic 250ml: £13.50, Abel & Cole

Like everything in the Abel & Cole range, this balsamic vinegar is organic and has the IGP stamp of approval. Thick and rich, this is crying out for a loaf of crusty bread for you to get dipping. Aside from that it would work well in chicken salads and drizzled over roasted Mediterranean veg. The beautiful bottle comes complete with a white ribbon and bottle stop, so would make a great (affordable!) gift for the foodie in your life.

Buy now

Massimo Bottura organic balsamic vinegar 250ml: £18.95, Harvey Nichols

If we’re going to trust anyone to create a fantastic balsamic vinegar, Massimo Bottura – the chef behind three Michelin starred restaurant, Osteria Francescana in Modena – is undoubtedly the man for the job. A celebration of one of his hometown’s most loved ingredients, his own-label vinegar is sweet and savoury with a good whack of acidity. It had a medium viscosity, but is extremely smooth so could be added to sauces at the last minute to create a rich depth of flavour, as glazes for meat and fruit or simply eaten with one of the regions other famous ingredients, parmigiano reggiano.

Buy now

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference balsamic vinegar of Modena 4 Leaf 250ml: £10, Sainsbury’s

With a pleasing viscosity and slightly sweet finish, Sainsbury’s “four leaf” balsamic is at the top of its range. When trying other supermarket own-brand balsamic vinegar’s around the same price, this tasted significantly more premium than the rest. A very good sweet to tart ratio that will work well in sauces and for dipping.

Buy now

Fortnum & Mason 20 year-old balsamic vinegar 100ml: £40, Fortnum & Mason

Rich, thick and luxurious, but then what else would you expect from royal warrant holders, Fortnum & Mason. This vinegar has been aged for an impressive 20 years, and in that time has taken on the complex earthy notes from the wood it’s been aged in – in this case oak, mulberry, chestnut, cherry and juniper. Thankfully a little goes a very long way, so just add a drop our two over freshly steamed asparagus and serve as a sumptuous starter, which is guaranteed to impress guests.

Buy now

The verdict: Balsamic vinegars

The Red Beetle’s Yellow Label balsamic vinegar comes out top for us, as we think it’s a great quality product at a sensible price, making it perfect for everyday use. However, if you’re looking for something slightly thicker and better for dipping, Belazu’s balsamic is perfect for the job. It’s more pronounced flavours made this a very memorable product that we can’t wait to cook with again.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

Balsamic vinegar is like the PB+J of vinegars: You know it, you’ve had it, you can pretty much find it anywhere. But, like most ubiquitous food products in the U.S., the quality can vary widely. When it comes to good quality balsamic vinegar, there are three terms you need to know: D.O.P., Condimento, and IGP. According to Michael Harlan Turkell, author of Acid Trip: Travels in the World of Vinegar, if one of these three words is on the label, you’re making a decent choice.

True balsamic vinegar is always labeled “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale” and has a D.O.P. stamp, which basically guarantees that the origin and location of production (Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy) has been verified. Although we would all love to drizzle the finest balsamic from Modena on every one of our salads, that may not be realistic. “When we find them, they’re quite expensive”, says Turkell.

Condimento is your next tier of balsamic. The term legitimizes good quality balsamic that was not supervised as closely as a D.O.P. or did not age as long as a typical D.O.P. Still, this type of balsamic vinegar is typically aged for 3-7 years.

There’s not enough D.O.P. and Condimento balsamic to meet the world’s demand, so the term I.G.P. confirms that the grape used to create the balsamic is similar to the grape from the region of Modena in Italy. I.G.P. balsamic vinegar is likely to be your best supermarket bet: a mass-produced balsamic that still maintains some quality standards.

We tasted over a dozen affordable brands of balsamic and, with Turkell’s guidance, chose five we’d keep on hand for cooking, drizzling, and all-purpose use. Consider these balsamics your gateway to the “good stuff.”

Balsamic vinegar is one of the more versatile ingredients you can have in your pantry. While it has an acidic quality like other vinegars, there’s also a slight sweetness to it, which means you can use it in even more recipes. Balsamic vinegar can work well in savory dishes like salad dressings, marinades, sauces, soups, and stews, but also in plenty of sweet recipes. In particular, it’s delicious when paired with fresh fruits like strawberries, raspberries, and peaches, because it helps bring out their natural sweetness.
There can be a lot of variation in the quality of balsamic vinegars, though, so if you don’t choose the right one, you can wind up with a bland-tasting vinegar instead of one with the rich, complex flavor that you’re after.
Keep reading our handy buying guide to learn all the tips you need to find the best balsamic vinegar for your kitchen. We’ve also included some specific product recommendations, including our top choice from The Balsamic Guy, which is made in Modena, Italy, aged for 25 years, and extremely flavorful.
Considerations when choosing balsamic vinegars
Type
When you’re shopping for balsamic vinegar, you can choose from the following three types:
Traditional balsamic vinegar is made with grapes from Modena or Reggio Emilia in Italy, which are then fermented and aged for at least 12 years. The vinegar has a deep, rich brown color and thick consistency that’s similar to syrup. Traditional balsamic vinegar has a less acidic flavor than most vinegars and is instead sweet and slightly tart. Due to its complex flavor, it shouldn’t be used for cooking — instead, it should be drizzled over foods as a finishing touch.
Traditional balsamic vinegar is labeled with “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale” and a DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) seal, so you know it’s genuine.
Condiment balsamic vinegar doesn’t offer quite as complex a flavor as traditional balsamic vinegar, but it’s still very tasty. It doesn’t have to follow the same methods used for traditional balsamic vinegar, so it may be aged for less than 12 years and isn’t necessarily made in Modena or Reggio Emilia. Condiment balsamic vinegar may have an “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale” label, but it won’t feature the DOP seal. Instead, look for an IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) stamp.
Condiment balsamic vinegar is thick and sweet like traditional balsamic vinegar, so it should be used for drizzling rather than cooking too.
Salad balsamic vinegar is typically the lowest grade of balsamic vinegar you can buy. It isn’t necessarily made with grapes from Modena, but it’s usually processed there. Salad balsamic vinegar isn’t fermented and may be aged for as little as two months. As a result, it isn’t as flavorful, which is why it’s combined with wine vinegar.
Salad balsamic doesn’t offer as complex a flavor as traditional or condiment balsamic, so it’s best used for cooking rather than drizzling over dishes.
Age
The age of a balsamic vinegar is often the best way to determine how rich and complex its flavor will be. Traditional balsamic vinegar is typically aged for 12 to 25 years, but you can find some incredibly expensive varieties that are aged for as long as 100 years. Condiment balsamics are generally aged for five to 10 years, which gives them a slightly less complex flavor. Salad balsamic vinegars are usually only aged for a few months, so they don’t have anywhere near the richness and complexity of traditional or salad balsamics.
Features
Flavor
While balsamic vinegar has a taste all its own, some varieties are infused with other ingredients to give them a different flavor. Flavored balsamics are often used to make salad dressings or for dipping bread. You can find balsamic flavored with spices and herbs like chili and garlic or fruits like raspberry and pomegranate.
Color
Balsamic vinegar is known for its rich, dark color, but there are actually white balsamics too. Some foodies don’t consider a white balsamic to be a true balsamic vinegar, but it does have a slightly sweet, tart flavor that’s lighter than other balsamics.
Price
Balsamic vinegar usually costs between less than $1 and $300 per ounce. You can expect to pay between 50 cents and $2 per ounce for salad balsamic vinegar, $5 and $50 per ounce for condiment balsamics, and $50 and $300 for traditional balsamics.
FAQ
Q. Does balsamic vinegar have any health benefits?
A. It does contain quite a few antioxidants, which can help reduce your risk of cancer. Studies have also shown a link between balsamic vinegar and reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Q. Do I have to keep balsamic vinegar in the fridge?
A. No, traditional and condiment balsamics can be stored at room temperature. If you purchase a lower quality balsamic with additives and thickeners, though, it may need to be refrigerated. Always check the label.
Balsamic vinegars we recommend
Best of the best: The Balsamic Guy Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
Our take: A DOP-certified traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy, this is one of the very best balsamics we considered.
What we like: Aged for 25 years to develop a rich, complex flavor. Its thickness makes it particularly popular with buyers. Only requires a few drops to provide intense flavor to any dish. Comes with a 100% money back guarantee.
What we dislike: Is one of the pricier balsamics on the market.
Best bang for your buck: Mantova Organic Flavored Balsamic Condiments
Our take: A set of four flavored balsamics that won’t break the bank and are an ideal gift for any foodie.
What we like: Organically made balsamics that come from Italy. Includes pear, fig, raspberry, and pomegranate-flavored vinegars. Can be used in salad dressings, sauces, and marinades. Company has been making flavored vinegars for over 30 years.
What we dislike: Has a thinner consistency than some users prefer.
Choice 3: Ellora Farms Pure Balsamic Vinegar
Our take: Its spray bottle dispenser makes this vinegar perfect for salad dressings and other light applications.
What we like: Includes two bottles of vinegar at an affordable price point. Spray bottle allows you to easily control how much vinegar is applied. Buyers appreciate its excellent flavor.
What we dislike: Bottles don’t contain much vinegar.
Jennifer Blair is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

4.8 (23)

The best balsamic vinegar is just like PB+J of the kinds of vinegar. One can pretty much find them anywhere like the ubiquitous food products around the US, this quality can highly vary widely. Similarly, when it comes to the high quality of the balsamic vinegar, there are some of the terms that you must know. The IGP, Codimento, and D.O.P

If any of these above mentioned three terms are present on the label, you are definitely making the right choice. The balsamic vinegar starts with the grape and the complete pressed grapes get completed with the stem, seeds, skin, and juice. Have a look at all the positive balsamic vinegar reviews now.

Comparison And Ratings Of The Best Balsamic Vinegar:

Image Balsamic Vinegar Rating
#1 – The Balsamic Guy Balsamic Vinegar of Modena 99%
#2 – Mantova Organic Flavored Balsamic Vinegar 96%
#3 – MiaBella Balsamic Vinegar 92%
#4 – Oliviers & Co Premium Balsamic Vinegar of Modena 89%
#5 – Ellora Farms | Pure Balsamic Vinegar 85%
#6 – VSOP Cranberry Pear Aged White Balsamic Vinegar 84%
#7 – Aged Italian Heirloom Balsamic Vinegar Gourmet 81%
#8 – Louianna Certified Organic I.G.P Balsamic Vinegar 81%
#9 – Fondo di Trebbiano White Balsamic Vinegar 80%
#10 – Balsamic Vinegar di Modena IGP 77%
#11 – Olive Oil Pantry Chocolate Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar 75%

Now that you’ve seen our top 5 recommendations, we’ll give you more detail on each of them, including why we liked them. When you’re ready, click the yellow button to get the best price on Amazon!

1. The Balsamic Guy Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

This is the traditional balsamic vinegar which is barrel-aged for 25 years in the barrels battery and made no less than the five different wood types. The best part is that the wine is tested, bottled and then sealed as the extravecchio DOP by a top Italian association of Growers in a unique 100 ml bottle. It is used mainly on the parmesan and pasta cheese. It comes with no preservatives or additives. 100 percent of the wine is a must. It is made of the wine of Trebbiano grapes in modern Italy. No preservatives or additives consist of the whole of grape or mosto cotto must.

This Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Traditional 25-year-old DOP certified is one of the best balsamic vinegar brands which is compared to God’s nectar and known as a secret weapon for all restaurants and home chefs. With its best packaging, this is one of the premium gifts for all special occasions. This is sold currently with distinctive customized made presentations packaged.

During the aging process, this product also goes through a complete series of profound changes in terms of alcohol, organic acid, sugars which are contained in wine. This also produces delicate and yet intense flavors or aromas. This is barrel-aged for around 12-25 years and can also be certified for DOP by Italian consortium. it is tested well and then only sealed.

What we liked about it

This Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Traditional 25-year-old DOP certified being the best balsamic vinegar is controlled closely by Italian Conscorcio. Only the 2 ages are well-recognized by Consorcio. Affinato is barrel-aged for around 12 years and the extravecchio is barrel-aged for long 25 years. This vinegar includes the wine or the mosto cotto which is left for cooling and results in the viscous syrup along with high content of sugar. It includes zero preservatives or additives. It is the natural product and comes with an excellent alternative for supreme taste and at affordable prices as well. Buy this product online.

Check Price on Amazon

2. Mantova Organic Flavored Balsamic Vinegar

This is the best aged balsamic vinegar which is the Italian product. It is an authentic and truly classic piece. It is made by making use of the organic Trebbiano grapes which are pressed and then cooked down for making rich or luxurious grape. From there, it is also used by making use of techniques of classic barrel aging with the carefully selected barrels and woods of different sizes and types.

It has a rich and dark color, the heady aroma which reflects the tradition and skill. With consistent taste, clean and sweet, this product is considered as perfect to be used for dressing the fresh greens in the sauces and also for enjoying the fresh fruit as the dessert.

The fresh pomegranate & the aged balsamic vinegar blend well in this Mantova Organic Flavored Balsamic Vinegar for creating the fruity & compelling the condiment in this. Some drops on the goat cheese over the delicate baby green also makes the delicious summer dinner.

The Pomegranates are synonymous virtually with the Mediterranean and the long history. It comes with a refreshing flavor blend with a wide variety of dishes. They can also be used on the leafy salads, the ripe fruits, fresh cheese as goat cheese or mozzarella. It is known as the delicious companion for the roasted poultry, the meat fish or pork.

What we liked about it

It is the best balsamic vinegar brand which is made of higher quality. It is made with the cooked organic grapes and concentrated one. It is the barrel-aged item. Like the cheese and wine, this product can only be created with time, patience and long process. It is also known for its great taste which is sweet, fruity and tart. This is the unique flavor which is the best combination that makes the balsamic vinegar as an option which is versatile for both savory and sweet dishes. They also have the sharpness, round flavor and smooth that freshens up the dishes.

Check Price on Amazon

3. MiaBella Balsamic Vinegar

This is the best balsamic vinegar dressing which is individually signed and numbered. It is handcrafted in small batches and selected carefully for the best enjoyment. The bottle consists of the finest quality of the traditional balsamic vinegar.

This is made of 100 percent Trebbiano grapes which are grown on rolling hills of the Modena. It comes with no added caramels, preservatives, flavors or more. Complete satisfaction is guaranteed to all around. This is the premium choice for all the adventurous cooks around. It is aged for 18 years. You will get the vinegar which has spent long years in the oak barrels or few years in the barrels of juniper wood, so all bottles can have a different flavor.

The MiaBella Balsamic Vinegar encourages cook for using the balsamic vinegar which is used in cold applications as well as hot. It is also important for noting that this is a great addition for the meat marinades and punches up really the fat content in all food.

This can be produced in all small batches and even have no added sugar. It comes with a great base for the reductions and balsamic glazes. As soon as the sugar gets added and vinegar is reduced, this long term storing of the balsamic vinegar disappears. So make sure you store the glaze in an airtight container and use them within the 2 weeks.

What we liked about it

This vinegar is aged for 18 years and they all are made in the limited quantities & inspected carefully for ensuring great quality of the balsamic vinegar. They bring the best piece of Italian culture for home. This best white balsamic vinegar is DOP certified and offers great taste on the fish, meat, cheese, strawberries and even on the vanilla ice cream. It is handcrafted in small batches and selected carefully for the best enjoyment. All of them consist of fine quality of traditional balsamic vinegar. They are made of 100 percent Trebbiano grapes which are grown on Modena rolling green hills.

Check Price on Amazon

4. Oliviers & Co Premium Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

As per the balsamic vinegar reviews, this is the one which is stemmed from the Modena tradition and achieved by reducing slowly grape must. It is refined in the quality rated wooden barrels. Its velvety, silky texture is also highlighted by a subtle hint of the acidity which is perfect for enhancing the dishes. This is produced for the centuries in the Modena region, it follows a strict and unique process which yields product like none other. It is in the heart of the region which is best as the grapes are simply picked, left for the long hours of cooking for obtaining grape must.

For obtaining vinegar of high quality, grapes must are placed in the wooden barrels. The vinegar gets transferred in smaller barrels. Every barrel is also used for specific purposes as aging, maturation or acidification.

It is also during the last phase of the barrel, it offers the fragrances and even flavorings which lets magic be operated. As more time passes by, the more precious and valuable this balsamic vinegar turns out. It is also a perfect option for daily kitchen and can be best combined with higher standards of the production which is associated with the vinegar at an accessible point for regular use. It is also made from the maturated wine which is added to grape must reduction.

What we liked about it

During the long process of aging in the oak barrels of a different number of sizes, this Oliviers & Co Premium Balsamic Vinegar of Modena matures as well as develops all flavors and the aromatic richness. With every passing year, this gets transferred in small barrels that allow vinegar for mellowing and attaining intensely sweet and aromatic flavors that are prized for. There are no additives to such an alluring flavor too. They are made solely of the grape must & wine vinegar. The vinegar gets passed off on producers of Consortium in the Modena for receiving coveted the certification of CABM.

Check Price on Amazon

5. Ellora Farms | Pure Balsamic Vinegar

This is the best supermarket balsamic vinegar from prized vineyards of Crete Island which comes from Ellora forms that are aged perfectly for luxurious and aroma indulgence. This is the innovative spray that sprays to the last drop. It can offer a distinctive look to the kitchen.

Its taste is also unique and different. The is in the designer perfume like the heavy glass of bottle & perfect for all occasions, the housewarming party, hostess gift, restaurants, salad bars, chefs table or more. They are perfect for tasty bruschetta or the avocado toast (we make our own with fresh avocados, an avocado slicer, and a 4-slice toaster!). It just has one calorie per spray for a healthy tomorrow and even today.

You can get this best supermarket balsamic vinegar online too. This is produced in a warm & fertile Kolymvair region in Crete Island. This is the old experience of the cultivation of traditional nature and the prime olives selective harvesting with strict observation of the international standards.

This also guarantees the superior quality range. The bottle of the Ellora Farms | Pure Balsamic Vinegar can be kept in the fridge for around 5 years. You can also put it for salad dressing and keep them cold. For the soup finishes and glazes, you can keep it in the cupboard. as per the production techniques of traditional nature, this includes transferring to small barrels which are made of a different number of woods for infusing the complex flavors into vinegar.

What we liked about it

This is the best balsamic vinegar which can result in a delicious and unique flavor. It sets apart from other brands in the market. It can offer all to have a memorable dining experience. This is heavy and thick flavor vinegar which doesn’t take much of the product for adding delicious sweetness tang to any of the product whether it is sweet or savory. Heating the balsamic also takes the pungent edge off the product and this is also a unique quality of the aged balsamic which one wants to keep. You can keep it in a cool place and can also it at room temperature or chilled place.

Check Price on Amazon

6. VSOP Cranberry Pear Aged White Balsamic Vinegar

This piece is one of the best natural Balsamic kinds of vinegar. Its ingredients include White Wine Vinegar, Natural Occurring Sulfites, Cranberries, Pears and Cooked Grape Must. The Cranberry Pear Aged White Balsamic Vinegar is made in the old Solera Method in Modena, Italy.

The Must is made from Lambrusco and Trebbiano grapes. The must is cooked (but not caramelized) according to tradition in a copper kettle over an open wood fire. The vinegar is aged progressively through a battery of seven new wooden barrels (that have not been fired on the inside) of smaller sizes according to the old Solera method.

The VSOP Cranberry Pear Aged White Balsamic Vinegar is 5.5% acidic and has a clean, crisp, and bright taste. The natural vinegar is great for your health as no coloring, thickener, or sugar has been added to it.

The best part of the natural and fruity vinegar is that it is versatile and you can use it with most of your best dishes. You can use it to marinate your favorite pork or chicken, pour over vegetables and fruit salads. It is perfect in making sauces and many other kitchen applications. The natural and fruity vinegar is also a great addition to your vodka cocktail.

You can perfectly pair the vinegar with Roasted Almond Oil, Roasted French Walnut Oil, VSOP Persian Lime EVOO, etc.

What We Like About It

The vinegar natural has no sugar, thickener, or colors that have been added to it. This makes the product very healthy to use. The vinegar has been aged through the natural old Solera method. It has been passed through a battery of seven new barrels that have not been fired from inside. This gives it a clean, crispy, and bright taste.

Check Price on Amazon

7. Aged Italian Heirloom Balsamic Vinegar Gourmet

This aged vinegar from Modena in Italy is the purest version among the Bistro blends balsamic kinds of vinegar. It is too yummy that it is almost like a dessert topping. The aged Italian Heirloom Balsamic vinegar costs a little too much money, but it is as good as it gets. It is syrupy, thick, and slightly sweet.

It is made of a 100% Barrel and has been aged for 12- 18 years in Modena. It is aged through traditional artisan methods in oak barrels.

The Italian Heirloom Balsamic Vinegar is designed to make your kitchen experience memorable. With its rich appeal, the delicacy brings out the best in most of your delicacies. You can use it to make your sauce sumptuous, to dress your salad, to marinate your chicken, or just use it as a dipper.

To add flavor to the already great piece, the gourmet balsamic is gluten-free. This means it is palatable even to people who are gluten intolerant.

What We Liked About It

The Italian Heirloom gourmet balsamic is the purest of all the Bistro blend balsamic. It is real vinegar and not made of grape must. As such, its flavor transcends the acidity, and you can be tempted to drink it off. It is also thick, syrupy, and a little sweet. It can be used to marinate as well as adding flavor to your sauce and salad. The fact that it is gluten-free makes it non-discriminatory. It gives the gluten intolerant people an opportunity to sample its delicacy.

The gourmet balsamic is a certified authentic product of Italy by the Italian exporter.

Check Price on Amazon

8. Louianna Certified Organic I.G.P Balsamic Vinegar

If you are looking for a top-quality vinegar with the best features, the Louianna Certified Organic is a great pick. In fact, it is used in Food Network in Canada where chefs only use top quality products. It is made using organic Trebbiano grapes from Modena which is the home of the finest balsamic kinds of vinegar. It is a distinction of excellence that is awarded to foods processed traditionally in the specified area in Italy.

It has an attractive bright and thick color. It comes with an intense, persistent, delicate, and exquisite acid flavor with wood notes.

It has its typical balanced, full-bodied, and characteristic amazing taste. The Louianna Certified Organic I.G.P can satisfy even the most discerning palates.

The delicacy can be used to dress strawberries. It can also be used with parmesan cheese, boiled or steamed vegetables, and it is also suitable for grilled meat and fish.

It has been certified organic by Canada Organic and ICEA. It is Non-GMO and no sulfites have been added to it and no caramel.

It has a 5-year shelf life while stored in its original container and kept away from direct sunlight.

What We Like About It

The Louianna Certified Organic I.G.P balsamic vinegar has health benefits as it is made using grapes. The grapes have antioxidants that help strengthen your immune system and prevent damage to cells. The balsamic vinegar also contains polyphenols that inhibit LDL oxidation. The vinegar is also useful in the digestion of proteins and increasing the body’s metabolic rate.

If kept under ambient temperature, away from direct sunlight and in its original container, the balsamic vinegar can last up to 5 years without going bad. You can, therefore, enjoy your delicacy for as long as you can, although I doubt it can last up to 5 years given its intense aroma and the enticing acid taste that will always entice you to use it.

Check Price on Amazon

9. Fondo di Trebbiano White Balsamic Vinegar

The Fondo di Trebbiano White Balsamic vinegar is a great addition to your kitchen. It makes every dish special in its way. Be it an appetizer, salad, sauce, or that favorite meat.

The balsamic vinegar is 4 years old and comes in 250 ml. It is made using fresh Trebbiano grapes that are strained. The straining removes any seeds or skin from the grapes.

The straining gives the Fondo di Trebbiano its beautiful dark golden color. The juice is then put in “piccolo” or the small oak barrels where it ages progressively through traditional methods for a period of 4 years. The barrels help produce vinegar with an acidic and sweet flavor with vanilla and smoke hints.

The white balsamic vinegar can be used to add flavor to roasted fish or vegetables. It can also add a zesty flavor to freshly cut fruits and salad. The Fondo di Trebbiano can also be used in pastries such as sabayon, custard, and salads.

What We Like About It

Have you ever had a product you felt was underpriced, and you were willing to pay more? Fondo di Trebbiano is one of them. The white balsamic vinegar only requires a few sprinkles on your salad, and the taste is just out of this world. The white vinegar is revered for its enriched flavor and diminished volumes.

Check Price on Amazon

10. Balsamic Vinegar di Modena IGP

The IGP Balsamic Vinegar di Modena is a combination of beauty and irresistible flavor. It has a velvety dark brown look that makes it very beautiful while its prune, chocolate, cherry, and molasses flavor gives it a complex sweetness.

It is made through special and traditional technology. It is made from must from 7 different vines in Emilia and aged in oak barrels. This results in a product that is thick, glossy and has a dark, deep brown color. It also has a taste that balances the sour elements of the grape juice with the natural sweetness and hints of wood from the casks.

The IGP Balsamic Vinegar works magic on the taste of everything, including vegetables and grilled meat. It is perfect for making desserts and can be used with ice-cream and berries. It is also ideal for the marinade and can be used together with olive oil in making top quality salads.

What We Liked About It

The beauty of the IGP Balsamic Vinegar makes it a perfect gift for any kind of occasion: Christmas, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, Wedding Anniversary, etc.

The vinegar also has a host of health benefits. It can help your skin and is good for people with diabetes. It also helps with hypertension. It has no sulfites and is full of antioxidants and minerals which makes it great for weight loss.

Check Price on Amazon

11. Olive Oil Pantry Chocolate Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar

Nobody can resist the aroma that comes with the Olive Oil Pantry Balsamic Vinegar. The vinegar is beautiful while at the same time rich with flavor. The 250 ml tinted glass bottle is elegant and a good display for your dining table. The tint also protects it from damage caused by the sun.

The vinegar is made using Red Wine Vinegar, Natural Chocolate, Natural Raspberry Flavors, and Grape Must. The grape must make the balsamic vinegar thick. The best thing about this delicacy is that it has no additives: no sweeteners, no artificial flavors, no added sugars, and no chemicals or preservatives.

The raspberry and chocolate flavors make the delicacy irresistible. Pancakes and ice-cream have a taste out of this world with the Olive Oil vinegar. It can also be paired with olive oil to make a fantastic salad dressing.

What We Liked About It

The Olive Oil Pantry Vinegar is elegant and beautiful. This makes it ideal for being a gift for any occasion.

It is natural as it has no artificial flavors, no sugars, thickeners, or chemicals. This makes it healthy and has a natural taste of chocolate and raspberry.

Check Price on Amazon

How we chose the best balsamic vinegar in our list?

A certain number of best balsamic vinegar brand is available in the market. All of them are tested and tried by the professionals. This product has a sweet and tangy flavor that possesses an intense aroma. They all are beautiful and versatile vinegar which punches up the flavor of the dairy based fats.

Well, so if you are the one who is going to drizzle over salad, make sure you include the full fat of the blue cheese or fresh mozzarella. For knowing about the best balsamic vinegar, it depends on who consumes and what are you using it for?

The balsamic kinds of vinegar are available in the market for beginners and for the ones with a sensitive palette or a larger budget. They are also aged for long years and results in the thick, hearty and consistent flavor. It is best in the combination of consistency as well as aging. as they are kept in the barrels, one can be certain that their next bottle will have the same odor or flavors.

It is important that one must consider the palate of fellow diners. The balsamic vinegar reviews are reviewed by the experts and stated in the top list for all. For the ones that love the intense aromas and the balsamic vinegar tangs, they can also taste great. They are produced in small batches and possess no additional sugars. It is also best for the reduction and balsamic glazes. They can make your cooking exceptionally great.

Why you need the best balsamic vinegar in your kitchen?

The best balsamic vinegar originates mainly from Italy.

1. They are popular throughout work and are used regularly in the salad dressings.

2. These vinegar are an easier way for getting the desired consistency of drizzling for the fresh-cut fruits, the roasted veggies as well as cheese plates.

3. For glaze as the Modenacrem Balsamic or even cook down simply the balsamic for creating thick and even the ultra-rich reduction.

4. You can create easily the sweet balsamic glaze for chicken and pork.

5. Finish the roasted, braised or grilled meats with one drizzle.

6. You can also use the flavorful marinade for the grilling of meats, poultry or seafood.

7. Drizzle it well over the grilled, baked or even the poached fish for the sweet & tangy finishing.

8. Simply add the spoonful or the 2 sauces or soups for added flavor dimension.

9. You can Amp up the classic risotto rice recipe with generous drizzle.

10. Well, create the velvety chocolate sauce of rich balsamic for the fresh berries.

11. You can add on a sweet splash of the sparkling cocktails or fizzy sodas.

12. These are the best balsamic vinegar dressing which is perfect for the tangy-sweet soaking.

If you are the one who is looking out for entertaining the friends’ group, this is the best recipe that can be a crowd-pleaser. Have a look at these best vinegar which are made with a lot of efforts by the experts. Select from the above top list of balsamic vinegar now.

Submit Rating

Average rating 4.8 / 5. Vote count: 23

19 Shares

Our best balsamic vinegar reviews will help you select the right one for your kitchen. We’ve all had balsamic vinaigrette at some point in our lives. But it’s shocking how many people have never experienced true, authentic balsamic vinegar.

Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is a dark-colored vinegar that’s rich, slightly sweet, aged or fermented. Authentic Italian balsamic vinegar is made through a wooden barrel maturing process. The ones made in Modena, Italy are very popular as they are made according to Italian traditions.

When Modena balsamic is IGP certified, you can trust that it’s authentic. The IGP label shows that the balsamic vinegar is from the region where it is produced and processed.

The main ingredient in balsamic vinegar is called “grape must,” which is crushed grapes. So making balsamic vinegar is slightly similar to the wine-making process.

Surprisingly, the best ones aren’t the store bought kind. Usually, they’re imported from Italy, aged several years, and contain the highest quality ingredients.

Plus, high quality balsamic vinegar can be used in a variety of ways. Therefore, it’s a great item for every household chef to have on hand.

Top 10 Reviews for the Best Balsamic Vinegars

Balsamic vinegar should be a staple in any modern kitchen because of its many applications. Whether it’s mixed in dressings, drizzled on mozzarella cheese and tomato, or swirled into soups or stir frys, it adds a sweet yet tart flavor to many dishes.

If you like to bake your own bread, using balsamic vinegar, olive oil and garlic makes for a delicious dip for fresh bread.

We think everyone should have a good balsamic in their kitchen. Many cookbooks include it as a staple item you should always have on hand while cooking.

However, these vinegars can be difficult to find since you can’t just pick them up at your local supermarket. In addition, importing quality aged balsamic vinegar from Italy would also be time-consuming and expensive.

Selecting a high end one takes research and time. You also have to know what to look for. That is why we’ve compiled this list for you.

1. Best Pick-Giuseppe Giusti Italian Balsamic Wine Vinegar of Modena

If you want balsamic vinegar that’s the “real deal,” then try Giuseppe Giusti. They make authentic Italian balsamic vinegars that taste and feel like a true balsamic should.

This pure, authentic vinegar is made from cooked sundried grapes and aged wine vinegar. It’s aged for at least twelve years so the complex flavors can marinate.

It contains notes of plum, honey, and vanilla when bottled. The flavor is still acidic like a true balsamic even though the taste is sweet. It’s perfect for pairing with beef, soft cheese and fruit.

Key Details

Authentic balsamic vinegar is made in Italy. Giuseppe Giusti is both Italian and family-owned. The family has been making this type of vinegar for over 400 years. They are the longest-running vinegar producer in the world.

The tradition as well as the wood barrels used to make the product have been passed down by 17 generations of artisan balsamic makers.

In addition, it’s also made in 300-year old wood barrels and aged for a minimum of twelve years. This technique adds to the rich, deep, and complex flavors that Giuseppe Giusti has perfected.

Due to the authenticity, this is a premium product that comes at a premium price. It’s the only drawback if you’re on a budget. Nonetheless, it’s long-lasting and well worth the investment.

Pros

  • IGP certification ensures rigorous testing and purity.
  • 5 ounces of award-winning balsamic vinegar.
  • Aged for 12 years in 300-year old wood barrels.

Cons

  • Premium price.
  • May be too sweet for some.
  • Contains a large amount of wine vinegar, diluting the grapes.

Check Price on Amazon

2. Best Value Pick-Due Vittorie Oro Gold Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

Due Vittorie balsamic vinegar is priced right in the middle so it’s both budget-friendly and premium. It’s also 100% natural, a best-seller in Italy, and regularly featured on the TV show Master Chef.

This producer uses a unique combination of two types of grapes to make this product: freshly harvested white Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes. The result is a full-bodied sweet balsamic that blends well with its level of acidity.

This balsamic will leave you with the after taste of black cherry. It adds a deep flavor to fruits, vegetables, and even ice cream.

This product has received international recognition. It’s been a #1 best-seller in Italy since 2010 and is featured in its top restaurants.This balsamic has also been repeatedly highlighted on the successful TV show Master Chef with Gordon Ramsay himself.

Its international success is no surprise. Due Vittorie is dedicated to combining quality and tradition. The balsamic is slowly aged in durmast barrels that stimulate the transfer of tannins and the absorption of the elements of the wood.

It is then rigorously tested to guarantee its high quality and compliance with regulations. It’s aged for at least 12 years since Due Vittorie is IGP certified. However, we’d like to know exactly how long it is aged for.

  • 250 milliliters of balsamic vinegar that includes a free cork pourer.
  • IGP certified.
  • #1 best-seller in Italy and featured on Master Chef.
  • Exact length of aging process is unknown.
  • Viscosity may be too thick.
  • 6% acidity can cause sourness.

Check Price on Amazon

3. MiaBella Balsamic Vinegar

MiaBella is a maker of authentic, high-quality, and versatile balsamic vinegars. The grapes used are also certified organic and aren’t tainted with any artificial flavorings.

Their aged balsamic contains only one ingredient: 100% Trebbiano grapes. It is one of the highest quality sources of grapes used to make pure balsamic vinegar.

There are no added sugars, flavors or preservatives. The grape must is aged in oak and juniper wood cask barrels to enhance its flavor.

MiaBella balsamic is less acidic than other brands. Therefore, it has a nice balance of richness, sweetness, and tanginess. It tastes delicious on meat, fish, salads, fruits and even vanilla ice cream.

Quality and purity are top priorities for MiaBella. Therefore, their balsamic vinegar is only produced in very small batches.

Each bottle is numbered and signed in batches of 1000 which allows full control and consistency. They want to ensure that each batch is smooth, rich, and sweet.

  • 5 ounces of balsamic vinegar that’s aged up to 18 years.
  • Produced in small batches to ensure quality and consistency.
  • Made with 100% organic Trebbiano grapes.
  • Premium price.
  • Texture may be thicker than others.
  • 5% acidity is less than traditional balsamic.

Check Price on Amazon

4. Villa Manodori Balsamic Vinegar

Villa Manodori is a popular choice because of the artisanal quality. This balsamic has a rich flavor, dark syrup color, and glaze texture.

Each bottle undergoes a 10-20 year maturation process in wooden barrels made of oak, juniper, and chestnut. 100 years of family tradition have gone into the making of this vinegar.

This 8.5-ounce bottle is a specialty item that makes for an excellent addition to any kitchen or as a gift.

This product has a premium price because it’s made in limited quantities by a legitimate Modena chef. Massimo Bottura is the chef and owner of Osteria Francescana, a renowned restaurant in Modena, Italy.

Bottura handcrafts this balsamic vinegar using traditional methods of maturation. He sources the ingredients locally. Then, he matures the balsamic until the aromas of the wooden barrels marinate with the sweet flavors of the Modena grapes.

The final product has received lots of attention. It is always in demand because it intensifies the flavors of many different types of foods.

  • 5 ounces of artisanal balsamic vinegar.
  • Handcrafted by a Modena chef.
  • Matured for 10-20 years in fine wooden barrels.
  • Available in limited quantities.
  • Specialty item is pricey.
  • Gourmet balsamic vinegar may intimidate casual cooks.

Check Price on Amazon

5. Best Budget Pick- M.G. PAPPAS Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

M.G. PAPPAS is a great choice if you’re on a budget but want to enjoy the highest quality balsamic possible. It competes with the premium options in terms of authenticity, age, purity, and taste. It’s a true, 100% balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy that is IGP Certified.

This product is aged for 10 years in wooden barrels for a smooth, grapey flavor with a delicate acidity. It contains only two ingredients: cooked grape must and red wine vinegar.

It has just the right balance between aged grape must and aged vinegar. It has a nicely balanced sweet and sour taste with just the right amount of acidic bite.

This company never uses any additives, caramels, preservatives, or other artificial agents. They do not want to distract from the naturally sweet and sour flavor of their vinegar. You can use it in sauces for beef and pork dishes and on cheese, salads, bruschetta and fish.

Everyone should have true balsamic vinegar in their kitchen. However, you shouldn’t have to spend an outrageous amount on it.

M.G. PAPPAS is affordably priced and a great choice that fits into nearly any budget. This balsamic is also perfect for drizzling on top of desserts, vegetables, and other dishes. However, it’s sweeter and thicker than other brands.

  • 5 ounces of IGP Certified balsamic vinegar.
  • Barrel aged for 10 years.
  • Sweet and thick consistency.
  • Not an ultra premium product.
  • May be too thick for some.
  • Sweetness may limit versatility.

Check Price on Amazon

6. Gourmet Living Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

A good balsamic vinegar has two ingredients: grape must and red wine vinegar. When the balsamic is almost entirely grape must, it takes the flavor to a whole other level.

Gourmet Living has produced a truly pure balsamic. The primary ingredient is cooked and fermented grape musts. It still contains a small amount of red wine vinegar though.

However, it complements rather than overpowers the taste of the must. There are no additives or preservatives in this balsamic.

The grapes undergo a rigorous process. They’re prepared, cooked, cooled, aged, and then bottled. The result is a thick and dark balsamic that’s rich in flavor.

Gourmet Living recommends only using a few drops at a time because of the potency. It’s perfect on top of meats, fish, fruit and even desserts.

This product is produced and bottled in Modena, Italy as a true, authentic balsamic vinegar should be. It is also IGP Certified.

This certification is an extra step that balsamic makers take to ensure their product is the best quality. It is only given to Italian products and confirms that they are produced in the region stated.

Our only reservation is that it has a higher sugar content than other brands. This makes for a sweeter dressing or glaze but may not complement savory foods as much as sweet foods.

  • 5 ounces of barrel-aged balsamic vinegar.
  • IGP Certified and made from mostly cooked grape must.
  • Free of additives and wine vinegar.
  • High sugar content.
  • More compatible with sweet foods than savory foods.
  • Premium price.

Check Price on Amazon

7. Ritrovo Selections 6 yr. Balsamic Vinegar

Ritrovo’s IGP Certified balsamic vinegar has only been aged for 6 years yet it competes with other high-end options that have aged much longer. In fact, they have found a producer of traditional balsamicos that uses a special evaporation technology. This technology allows their balsamic to taste like it was aged for 25 years in only 6-7 years.

Ritrovo is made with a mixture of Lambrusco and Trebbiano grape must. In addition, they utilize red wine vinegar.

This combination results in an aromatic, thicker, and richer balsamic. This balsamic is great for meat marinades and salad dressings while it also pairs nicely with cheeses and fruits.

Its unique aging process really makes this product stand out from the rest. Ritrovo ages its grape musts in wine barrels made from French oak.

From there, a regulated evaporation process is used to speed up the aging process by almost four times. Instead of paying a premium for 25-year aged balsamic, consumers pay a fraction of the price for one that tastes like it’s matured for much longer.

However, it does give off a wine flavor which may not be desired if you’re looking for a pure balsamic taste.

  • 5 ounces of high-end balsamic vinegar.
  • Formulated to taste like 25-year aged balsamic.
  • IGP certified.
  • Only aged for 6 years.
  • May have a strong wine taste.
  • Evaporation process isn’t traditional.

Check Price on Amazon

8. Papa Vince Balsamic Vinegar

Authentic balsamic vinegars are usually associated with Modena, Italy. However, this one is made in small batches in Sicily, Italy.

Papa Vince is a Sicilian family-owned balsamic vinegar maker. The grapes are locally grown in Sicily and the balsamic is aged for 8 years. They uniquely age it in cabot and cherry wood which is free of lead lining.

The taste of this product is what makes it truly different from others. Since the main ingredient in balsamic is grape, balsamic vinegars are naturally sweet. Like coffee and wine, balsamic users may describe the flavors according to various notes.

Papa Vince’s balsamic contains notes of fig and raspberry. The fruity taste achieves a nice balance of sweet and tart. Papa Vince uses a lot of red wine vinegar so it also contains notes of red wine. The viscosity is perfect for salad dressings, sandwiches, pizza, vegetables and fruit.

One drawback is that red wine vinegar is the first ingredient. A true balsamic should contain mostly grape must.

This ingredient profile affects the purity and flavor. While the sweet and tart flavor is delicious, it’s questionable whether this balsamic is traditional.

  • 5 ounces of Sicilian balsamic vinegar.
  • Aged for 8 years.
  • Wooden barrels used for maturation are lead-free.
  • More red wine vinegar than grape must.
  • Overly sweet flavor may affect versatility.
  • Some users may not like fig and raspberry flavor.

Check Price on Amazon

9. Fattoria Estense Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

Have you ever wished you could have access to secret Italian family recipes? Italians are known for their trade secrets when it comes to wine, sauce, and even balsamic vinegar.

Fattoria Estense makes authentic Italian vinegar using their secret Italian family recipes. Therefore, you can make traditional dishes that call for balsamic right at home. Although this bottle travels all the way from Italy, it’s sealed with wax to preserve the freshness.

This product gets its rich flavor from the 10-year process required to make it. First, Fattoria Essence ferments the ingredients. Then, they are aged in wood barrels for a decade.

Most balsamic vinegars are very dark in color, but this one has an amber color. The lighter color doesn’t take away from the depth in taste, however. It has a syrupy texture with a sweet and rich flavor.

Fattoria Essence strongly recommends combining this balsamic with a variety of different foods. It pairs wells with meat, fish, cheese, dressings and fresh fruits.

One drawback is that it contains added sulfites. All balsamics contain naturally occurring sulfites. However, added sulfites are used to preserve the product.

  • Affordable price.
  • Aged for 10 years.
  • 5 ounces of versatile Italian balsamic vinegar.
  • Contains added sulfites.
  • Added preservatives.
  • Thinner consistency than others.

Check Price on Amazon

10. QO Thick Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

Balsamic vinegars contain very similar ingredients. Some manufacturers must get creative to make theirs stand out. So that’s exactly what QO did.

Their aged balsamic contains only two ingredients: cooked grape musts and red wine vinegar. However, QO achieves a thick density by reducing the grape must to a concentrate.

This creates a very potent flavor profile and a thick, dense full-bodied texture. Due to the concentration of grapes, the balsamic is sweet without added sugars yet balanced with red wine vinegar.

QO also ages their balsamic in wooden barrels, although they do not disclose the length of the aging process.

One characteristic we like about this product is that it’s made with 100% natural ingredients. From the grape musts used to create the balsamic to the final product, QO uses only thoughtful raw materials. There are no added thickening agents or artifical coloring.

The dark color is a natural result of the concentrated grape musts and no preservatives are added to the aged balsamic. While some prefer very thick, high viscosity balsamic vinegar, this one is thicker than the Italian tradition.

  • Affordable price.
  • 5 ounces of all-natural balsamic vinegar.
  • Flavor achieved by concentrating grape musts.
  • Thickness may limit versatility.
  • Length of aging process is unknown.
  • Pairs better with sweet foods than savory ones.

Check Price on Amazon

Balsamic Vinegar Buyer’s Guide

You could walk right into any grocery store and pick out a balsamic vinegar off the shelf. However, most store-bought ones lack the authenticity, taste, richness, and versatility of true balsamic vinegar imported from Italy. They’re also packed with sugar, oil, and additives.

Check out the video below to see how traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy is made.

The best balsamic vinegars contain minimal yet high-quality ingredients. They come directly from Italian manufacturers and undergo a lengthy aging process. Here’s what you need to know when deciding which one is best for you.

How to Select a Balsamic Vinegar

Most store bought balsamic vinegars are used for salad dressings and there’s nothing wrong with that. They add a lot of flavor to dressings.

For instance, you can make a really simple dish like an Apple & Goat Cheese salad with Honey Balsamic dressing that tastes delicious (we love using Manuka Honey (1 Tbsp), Olive Oil (4 Tbsp), Balsamic Vinegar (2 Tbsp), Dijon Mustard (1 Tsp), sea salt(1/8 Tsp), 1 sliced apple and 1 ounce of wire cut goat cheese on a bed of romaine lettuce).

However, balsamic vinegar can be used for so much more than just salad. If you want a balsamic to drizzle on fruit, vegetables, breads and desserts, then below are the characteristics that make for a good balsamic.

Aging Process

Some things in life just taste better when they’re aged—like wine and balsamic vinegar. This is actually what sets it apart from other vinegars. Balsamic vinegars can differ and therefore yield different results depending on the manufacturer, the length of aging along with the process of aging.

Length of Aging

Traditional balsamic vinegar is aged for 12 years or more. Some are aged for as few as 6 years while others are aged for 25 years or longer. The time period allows the main ingredient—“grape musts,” or crushed grapes—to form into a thick, flavorful syrup. As the balsamic ages, moisture from the grape musts evaporate which causes the mixture to thicken.

The aging process allows the flavors to meld together and become more concentrated. The duration of this process affects the taste and texture. The longer the aging process then the thicker, richer, and sweeter the balsamic usually becomes.

Wooden Barrels

When you hear that a balsamic vinegar has been marinating for 12 years, you might wonder if it’s left to sit in a wooden barrel for all that time. The answer is no. Throughout the years, it is moved to different wooden barrels. The new barrels vary by wood type and size. Typically, the balsamic vinegar will start in a large wooden barrel and slowly move to smaller wooden barrels. For instance, oak and chestnut woods are commonly used to start. ‘Then, it’s moved to other types of wood barrels like cherry, juniper, and cabot.

Italian Origin

You’ve probably picked up by now that the best balsamic vinegars come from Italy. Why? It is part of the Italian tradition. Specifically, some of the best come from Modena, Italy. They are made according to the Modena tradition and are considered some of the highest quality. Balsamic vinegars produced in this region of Italy are usually aged for a longer period of time. In addition, they only use 100% Trebbiano grapes.

Ingredients

The purest balsamic vinegars only contain one ingredient: grape musts. However, some contain more than that. Other ingredients may add to the flavor while some decrease the quality. Below are the ingredients worth noting.

Grape musts

You can’t make balsamic vinegar without grape musts. However, you can make balsamic with different types of grape musts.

Traditional balsamic calls for Trebbiano grapes. These white grapes are used to make Italian balsamic and even white wine. These grapes are ideal. They create a sweet syrup that contributes to balsamic vinegar’s naturally sweet and thick texture.

Lambrusco grapes are also used to make balsamic vinegar. These red grapes are usually mixed with Trebbiano grapes to make a thicker syrup.

Red wine vinegar

A balsamic vinegar that only contains two ingredients—grape musts and red wine vinegar—is still considered a good-quality balsamic.

Red wine vinegar may be added to the balsamic to convey an element of acidity. This balances out the sweetness of the grape musts and can also thin out balsamic that is too thick.

Sulfites and additives

You may have been warned to avoid wine or balsamic vinegar with added sulfites. These chemicals are added to fruit-based foods to preserve them. They also prevent them from discoloring or oxidizing. Some people are even allergic to sulfites. If you are sensitive to sulfites, you can avoid balsamic vinegars containing added sulfites. However, most contain naturally occurring sulfites. Therefore, they’re difficult to avoid completely.

Other ingredients commonly added to balsamic vinegars include artificial flavors, caramels, syrups, added sugar, and other flavorings. The best ones though have grape musts as the first ingredient. If they contain a second ingredient, it should be red wine vinegar. Anything else is simply unnecessary. It takes away from the natural taste and quality of the balsamic.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How should you use balsamic vinegar?

A: There are dozens of ways. Here are a few ideas:

  • Drizzle on top of savory foods like pizza, bruschetta, and roasted vegetables
  • As an ingredient in sauces and dressings
  • As a topping for sweet foods like ice cream or fruit
  • Stir into soup
  • As the base of a glaze

Q: What is authentic balsamic vinegar?

A: Authentic balsamic vinegar adheres to a few requirements. It’s made in Italy with Trebbiano grapes, it’s aged for at least 12 years, and it doesn’t contain any added ingredients.

Authentic balsamic also requires wooden barrels as part of the aging process. The balsamic vinegars at most grocery stores aren’t authentic or traditional. They’re not aged or made in Italy, nor do they contain simple, oil- and sugar-free ingredients.

Q: Does balsamic vinegar go bad?

A: Balsamic vinegars are believed to last indefinitely due to the aging process. You should make sure to check the bottle for the manufacturer’s information on expiration. It may vary. For this reason, you should make sure to store them properly. If sediment settles at the bottom of the bottle, don’t worry. It’s natural and occurs as a result of the lengthy aging process.

Q: How do you store it?

A: Think about it: some balsamic vinegars have been around for decades. It’s not surprising that they don’t have to be refrigerated. You can store your balsamic vinegar in a cool, dark place like your kitchen cabinet or cupboard. Be sure to keep it away from heat and sunlight because this can result in a sour taste.

Q: What are the health benefits of balsamic vinegar?

A: In addition to the great taste, balsamic vinegar does have some health benefits. Like wine, the main ingredient is grapes which are high in antioxidants. These antioxidants can contribute to improved skin health, reduced blood sugar, lowered cholesterol, and healed wounds.

Conclusion

You’ll never realize how much flavor balsamic vinegar adds to your meals until you have a bottle on-hand. Whether you’re vegan, gluten-free, or eat whatever your heart desires, balsamic vinegar adds a unique balance of sweet and savory to your favorite dishes.

The reality is that store-bought balsamic vinegars are full of oil, sugar, and additives. They aren’t in the same playing field as authentic balsamic vinegar made in Italy and aged to perfection.

If you invest in the Giuseppe Giusti Italian Balsamic Vinegar, it will quickly become your secret weapon to turn average dinners into Italian restaurant-quality entrees. As we mentioned before, this is the “real deal” balsamic. If you want the authentic balsamic experience, this is a great fit for you.

If you want to dip your toes in the water before splurging, consider our budget pick, M.G. PAPPAS Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. It’s affordably priced but maintains the premium quality we expect of gourmet balsamics. We also like how it pairs well with desserts.

With so many choices in local stores and even online, it can be hard to distinguish low-quality balsamic vinegars from authentic, high-quality ones.

So we hope that after reading our detailed balsamic vinegar reviews and comprehensive buying guide, you’ll have all the information you need to select the best balsamic vinegar for your kitchen.

Balsamic vinegars at Eataly New York’s Eccellenze counter.

In 1046, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry III was given a silver bottle containing a celebrated vinegar while passing through a town on his way to his coronation. The record of this visit is thought to be the first written reference to balsamic vinegar, a condiment once known only to those in the Emilia-Romagna region of what is now modern Italy, and produced only in the provinces of Reggio Emilia —where Henry III was visiting —and neighboring Modena.

Today, balsamic vinegar is known to cooks around the world and available to shoppers everywhere. It can sell for as much as $200 an ounce, or as cheaply as three dollars for a 16 ounce bottle. But how can one vinegar offer such a dramatic price range? How can one condiment be fit for an emperor and for a salad dressing? The answer, of course, is that there isn’t just one balsamic vinegar. But understanding the differences takes a bit of work.

TRADITIONAL BALSAMIC VINEGAR

Balsamic aging in barrels

Traditional balsamic vinegar is the granddaddy of balsamic vinegars. To this day it is only made in Reggio Emilia and Modena, Italy, using traditional methods, and production is overseen from beginning to end by a special certification agency.

Traditional balsamic vinegar begins with grape must —whole pressed grapes complete with juice, skin, seeds and stems. The must from sweet white locally grown and late-harvested grapes —usually Lambrusco or Trebbiano varieties— is cooked over a direct flame until concentrated by roughly half, then left to ferment naturally for up to three weeks, and then matured and further concentrated for a minimum of 12 years in a “batteria,” or five or more successively smaller aging barrels. These barrels are made of different types of wood such as oak, chestnut, cherry, juniper, and mulberry, so that the vinegar can take on the complex flavors of the casks.

Once a year the vinegar is bottled from the smallest cask in the sequence. Each cask is then topped up with vinegar from the next cask up, with the largest cask getting filled with the new yield. None of the casks are ever completely drained. This ageing process is similar to the solera process used for fine sherries, ports, sweet wines, and Spanish brandies. The vinegar gets thicker and more concentrated as it ages because of evaporation that occurs through the walls of the barrels—the vinegar the smallest barrel will be much thicker and more syrupy than the liquid in the successively larger barrels.

Because of the multi-barrel process, it takes complex math to gauge the average age of the bottled product, so instead a tasting commission of five expert judges convenes to taste the vinegars and determine an appropriate grade, and no age is printed on the label. In Reggio Emilia, traditional balsamics are graded affinato (fine), with a red cap, which roughly corresponds to a 12-year vintage; vecchio (old), with a silver cap, which roughly corresponds to a 15-20 year vintage; or extra vecchio (extra old), with a gold cap, which roughly corresponds to a 20-25 year vintage. In Modena there’s just affinato, with a white cap, or extra vecchio, with a gold cap.

Balsamic vinegar and strawberries.

Color and Texture: Traditional balsamic vinegar is glossy, viscous, and dark brown, though it captures light beautifully. It moves like syrup, and has a velvety texture on the tongue.

Flavor: A rich, complex sweetness that explodes in the mouth with notes of fig, molasses, cherry, chocolate, or prune. Traditional balsamic should pick up the flavors of the wood it matured in, and may have a slight smokiness. Traditional balsamic offers a mellow tartness rather than a strong acidity.

Identification: Traditional balsamic vinegar is always labelled Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale and carries a D.O.P. (“Denominazione di Origine Protetta”) stamp — a European Union certification that guarantees an ingredient’s quality, production, and place of origin. The only ingredient is grape must. Traditional balsamic contains naturally occurring sulphites; none should be added.

Traditional balsamic is sold in wax-sealed bottles with unique identifying numbers. Traditional balsamic from Modena is only sold in a bulb-shaped 100ml bottle. If it’s from Reggio Emilia it’s only sold in a 100ml bottle shaped like an inverted tulip. If it’s from anywhere else, it’s not traditional balsamic vinegar.

Use: Traditional balsamic is not a cooking ingredient — heating it will kill its distinctive bouquet — and it would be wasted as an ingredient in a salad dressing. Instead, use it where it can shine. Try putting a few drops on fresh berries, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or creamy desserts like panna cotta, zabaglione, or vanilla ice cream.

Traditional balsamic can be used at the end of cooking. It’s excellent drizzled over traditional veal scaloppine, a rich risotto, or the Italian stew bollito misto. It’s also great over grilled meats and seafood. Add about a teaspoon per person just before serving to get the best of its flavor.

In Italy really good balsamic is also drunk as a palette cleanser, aperitif or digestif, especially on special occasions such as weddings. The name “balsamic” connotes the vinegar’s original use as a tonic, or “balm.”

Storage: Traditional balsamic vinegar will keep indefinitely, but store in a cool dark place to best preserve the complexity of its flavors, and keep away from other pungent ingredients. Balsamic vinegar will not continue to mature in the bottle.

CONDIMENTO BALSAMICO

Condimento Balsamico

Because the production of traditional balsamic is so tightly defined and regulated, there is a certain appreciable clarity to its categorization. Dig any further into the world of balsamic vinegar and things get more confusing.

“Condimento” is a term that exists to cover balsamic vinegars made in the traditional manner that can’t receive the “traditional” designation, usually because they weren’t produced under appropriate supervision or because they didn’t meet the standard for maturity. Often they’re excellent balsamic vinegars made outside of Modena and Reggio Emilia, or vinegars made by tradizionale producers that have only been aged for three or five or seven years.

These products are generally much cheaper than tradizionale balsamics, but often still excellent quality, so they may represent better value for money. However, because the title “condimento” is not a protected designation the term can be found on lower grade vinegar as well, and some version of “condimento” or “condiment” may appear on balsamic-like products.

Color and Texture: Because balsamic is cooked down and then further condensed by maturation, it tends to have greater viscosity and depth of color the older it is and the richer its flavor. A good condimento should really coat the walls of a glass.

Flavor: Condimento lacks the woody notes and lingering complexity of traditional balsamic, but should still offer a wonderful mix of acidity, sweetness, and leathery, cherry flavors.

Identification: Condimento will not have D.O.P. stamp on the label, but it should carry an I.G.P. stamp — “indicazione geografica protetta,” or protected geographical indication. Condimento may also carry the seal of the Consorzio di Balsamico Condimento, a body set up to monitor condimento grade balsamics, and a good indicator of quality. Condimento should be relatively expensive — around $40 for a good size bottle.

The most important thing to check to be sure of a good condimento is the ingredients list. If grape must is the only ingredient, that’s a great sign. Some condimentos may contain a little wine vinegar to balance the acidity, but if wine vinegar is the first ingredient, you’re looking at generic vinegar sweetened with balsamic must, not balsamic must balanced with a little vinegar.

If there’s a family name and a real address on the label, that’s a good sign, because it suggests small scale production. Some condimentos are made by tradizionale balsamic producers, and that’s a very good sign.

Usage: Condimento should be used exactly as a traditional balsamic is used, with the advantage that you can use it more liberally because it’s much cheaper! That also means that you can use it for a salad dressing, though you should make it the dominant note.

Storage: As with traditional balsamic, condimento will last forever but should be kept away from strong flavors and strong light.

BALSAMIC VINEGAR OF MODENA IGP

Aged balsamic vinegar of Modena.

The first balsamic vinegars sold in the US arrived courtesy of one Chuck Williams, the founder of Williams-Sonoma, in 1977. They were presumably the real deal, but that was the start of a boom for imported balsamic from Modena that would soon see demand outstrip supply.

This surge in popularity led to a rise in derivative products, which in turn led to the introduction of a protected designation for true traditional balsamic vinegar. But the D.O.P. designation only protects the very best; it doesn’t offer any level of distinction among mass market balsamics.

That’s where the I.G.P. designation comes in. Introduced by the European Union in 2009, I.G.P. guarantees that the product is made from grape varietals typical of Modena (Albana, Ancellotta, Fortana. Lambrusco, Montuni, Sangiovese, and Trebbiano), though the grapes can be from anywhere and only need to be processed in Modena. This is the only way balsamic vinegar of Modena can be produced in volumes sufficient to meet demand.

The vinegar is cooked in pressurized vats and aged for at least two months in large wooden barrels. There is no fermentation stage. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena I.G.P. must contain wine vinegar to bring its acidity to at least 6%, and can contain up to 50% wine vinegar, often both aged and young. It may contain thickening agents, caramel, or other colorants to make it more like real balsamic. The balance of ingredients can create balsamic vinegars as cheap as $5 or as expensive as $50.

Balsamic vinegar with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Color and Texture: The appearance of balsamic vinegar of Modena I.G.P. is hugely variable both because additives are permitted and because the ratio of wine vinegar to grape must is variable. If the label doesn’t list any thickeners and the vinegar seems thick, it probably has a high percentage of grape must.

Flavor: I.G.P. balsamic has a higher acidity, and that’s strongly reflected in the taste. This isn’t a complex condiment, but closer to a standard vinegar with a touch of sweetness. These vinegars vary substantially in quality, which may be reflected in the price. Darker vinegars ought to be sweeter. Expensive vinegars ought to be more complex.

Identification: Other than the I.G.P. designation and yellow-and-blue I.G.P. stamp (which shows two furrowed hillsides in a ring of stars), there should never be too much shown on the label of an I.G.P. balsamic. The EU banned the use of potentially misleading language and numbers on these labels, to stop producers from fooling consumers into thinking they were vintage products.

The word “aged” can appear on an I.G.P. balsamic label if the product has matured in wood barrels for more than three years. Some producers use their own rating systems to distinguish between balsamic vinegars in their own line. For example, the four-leaf system uses leaves to represent the density and sweetness of the vinegar, but the quality indicated by these ratings is not consistent from one producer to the next. I.G.P. certification also appears on most condimento balsamics, as mentioned above.

Supermarket balsamic vinegar I.G.P. and strawberries.

Usage: This grade of balsamic vinegar is also known as salad balsamic (balsamic insalata), which gives you a clue as to how it’s used; it’s the go-to balsamic for a flavorful salad dressing. It’s also a great flavor enhancer for soups and stews, and ideal as a marinade. Unlike fancy balsamics, it’s actually perfect for cooking with, because it can reduce down. In fact, one of the simplest things to do with salad balsamic is to boil it in a saucepan with some sugar to create a cheap balsamic syrup. Lighter salad balsamics are especially tart, and ideal for vinaigrettes and dips. Darker salad balsamics are sweeter and make better marinades and finishing drizzles. The darkest varieties are the ones to experiment with on ice cream or berries, though they won’t offer the same rapturous pleasure as the real thing.

Storage: This grade of balsamic also keeps indefinitely.

IMITATION BALSAMIC

While balsamic vinegar of Modena I.G.P. at least uses wine vinegar and cooked must, there are some vinegars on shelves that use the word “balsamic” that are really just vinegar with sweetener and coloring. They may be made with wine vinegar, white vinegar, or cider vinegar, and they’re industrially-produced to emulate the texture and flavor of balsamic, at a fraction of the price. Some of these vinegars may claim to have been made in Italy, but without an I.G.P. stamp, the ingredients could come from anywhere.

Some balsamic-style vinegars are produced outside of Italy— e.g. in Spain, Greece, France, the U.S., or Canada. Some of these approach the quality of good balsamic vinegar, and the clues are always in the ingredients. If the ingredients only list cooked must, it’s a high-end balsamic imitator. If it contains cooked must and vinegar, it’s closer to an I.G.P. While these vinegars are nothing like traditional balsamic, they do have a place in the kitchen in things like salad dressings and marinades. Check ingredients and taste around to find one you like.

BALSAMIC-INSPIRED PRODUCTS

The popularity of balsamic vinegar has led to a mini-industry of derivative products. We mention some of the major ones here, but it should be noted that high quality balsamic would never be wasted in a derivative product.

Balsamic glaze: A thick syrup generally made with grape must, I.G.P. balsamic vinegar, guar gum, and xanthan gum. It’s essentially a way to give cheap balsamic the consistency of expensive balsamic so that it can be used in the same way – as a drizzle or finishing sauce.

Balsamic ketchup: Ketchup that switches out white vinegar for balsamic vinegar. This adds some tang to the ketchup but sacrifices the complexity of balsamic. We tried it, and we liked it.

Balsamic pearls: A strange artefact of the molecular gastronomy craze, balsamic pearls are balsamic vinegar of Modena I.G.P. transformed into tiny black balls with the help of a gelling agent and other additives. A fancy garnish if you don’t trust yourself to drizzle elegantly.

Balsamic syrup: Another name for balsamic glaze.

Flavored balsamic: Balsamic vinegar infused with flavor additives such as lemon, herbs, vanilla, fruit, berries, etc. Good balsamic doesn’t need extra flavor any more than a good wine, so if a balsamic vinegar has flavor enhancements that might be taken as a bad sign. We recommend making your own infused balsamic, such as our recipe for strawberry balsamic sauce.

Saba: Regarded as the ancestor of balsamic vinegar, and popular in Roman times, saba is a sweet syrup of slow-cooked concentrated grape must. It’s unfermented, but may spend some months maturing in a barrel. Vincotto is a similar condiment from southeastern Italy. They both make great alternative to balsamic vinegar.

White balsamic: Sweet white wine vinegar. White balsamic is slow-cooked to avoid caramelization, and there is no requirement for maturation. Not a true balsamic at all, because caramelization is a necessary part of the production of real balsamic.

With thanks to Joanne Kelly and Caitlin Addlesperger at New York gourmet retailer Eataly, and Angelo Tramonti at Ontario-based importer and distributor Sarafino.

All products linked here have been independently selected by our editors. We may earn a commission on purchases, as described in our affiliate policy.

I’ve been to Modena, Italy. Two times, in fact. Each time I spent hours at small, family-ownedacetaias, airy attics whereAceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena(Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena) is made.

I ate with the families and downed my share of thick, syrupy balsamic, as dark and glossy as a hand-polished mahogany piano.

Aged for a minimum of 12 years, real-deal balsamic takes on complex flavors aging in successively smaller and smaller wooden barrels. The casks are made of different types of wood, such as cherry, chestnut, oak, mulberry and ash. It reduces in volume during the process, enhancing the flavor and enriching the texture.

The taste is so delectable, a drop or two ofvecchio(old) balsamic (aged at least 12 years) orextravecchio(aged at least 25 years) on a fresh strawberry transforms it into a dish that dazzles the senses. And it does the same on a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or a pan-seared scallop.

But it wasn’t the consortium-sealed tradizionale balsamic vinegar that was the subject of a recent taste test. No, we didn’t open any 3 1/2-ounce 12-year-old beauties with a price tag of $75 to $90 a bottle, or 25-year-old treasures that demand about twice as much dough.

The Subject: Balsamic on the Cheap

The subject of the test was the inexpensive balsamic vinegars that line the shelves at grocery stores and warehouse markets. The world outside the authentic, where faux balsamic is cheap and the product is thin; where “aging” means less than 12 years.

I was curious about how different brands stack up. I watch shoppers. They buy lots of it. They generally don’t drizzle it atop fruit, but use it in salad dressings and marinades. They add it to soup or pasta to add sweet-tart flavor-bling, or combine it with olive oil to dip chunks of crusty bread.

With vinegars ranging in a price from 21 cents to $1.79 an ounce, none of the eight vinegars were purchased at posh specialty shops (although some came packaged in impressive bottles with pretty labels).

The test wasn’t going to be a pleasant task. Acidity levels would be high and any subtle differences difficult to ascertain.

Brave Panelists

With water and bread on hand, the six panelists gathered at the tables. They included Ryan Adams (executive chef at Sorrento Grille, Laguna Beach), Massimo Navarretta (executive chef-owner of Onotria Wine Country Cuisine Restaurant, Costa Mesa), Phyllis Ann Marshall (president of Food Power Inc, a national restaurant consultancy business), Scott Raczek (executive chef at Mr. Stox Restaurant, Anaheim), Ania Sullivan (retired business executive and enthusiastic home cook), and Becky Trowbridge (caterer and personal chef).

The Test

Yes, I was asking a lot. Some said their noses burned when they tested for aroma. And Italian-born Massimo Navarretta found the whole process disheartening.

“This is not balsamic … Balsamic is made for a dowry, not made for a salad,” he said, referring to the Modena tradition of sending off a bride with a gift barrel of balsamic that was started on the day of her birth. For one of the lowest priced balsamics, he said that the vinegar’s producer should do jail time – five years at least. Another, he said, gave the word “bad” a bad name.

But the panelists agreed that three of the eight were better, adding that all the rest were pretty much the same. Here are the top three:

FIRST PLACE: Kirkland Signature Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Costo, 33 cents per ounce)

Several judges concurred that the aroma was the most interesting, with a hint of wood. It had the most viscosity, with the best sweet-to-sour balance. One panelist said it was “brighter on the palate.” Another said it they could detect hints of cherries on the nose. Several said that it had the most pleasing finish.

SECOND PLACE: Trader Joe’s Aceto Balsamico di Modena I.G.P. – Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, aged 10 years in oak barrels (Trader Joe’s, 46 cents per ounce)

One judge thought this vinegar had the best balance of flavors, the high acidity buffered and mellowed out. One judge said it reminded him of sweet onion. Another remarked on the finish, saying that it was the only one that didn’t burn the back of the throat. Another noted the texture, commenting that it was still watery, but thicker than many of the other vinegars.

THIRD PLACE: Fini Modena (Sold at many supermarkets and Cost Plus World Market, $1.41 per ounce)

One judge said that he could pick up a hint of vanilla, another noted the pleasant scent of figs. Another said that the finish was pleasingly spicy.

Here are some recipes that use inexpensive, aged-less-than-12-years balsamic:

Recipe: Strawberry Preserves with Black Pepper and Balsamic Vinegar

Recipe: Pork Medallions with Port, Balsamic and Dried Cranberry Sauce

Recipe: Balsamic Salad Dressing

A river of black gold flows from the cities of Modena and Reggio Emilia straight to your home kitchen.    

Aceto balsamico, better known as balsamic vinegar, is arguably the most famous and prized vinegar in the world. Having written a book on the production and usage of vinegar throughout history, I get the most questions about balsamic vinegar. While balsamico plays a small role in Acid Trip, there have been over 100 other publications that document and debate the origins of balsamic vinegar. After a few visits to Emilia-Romagna, I became more intrigued by balsamic vinegar’s rise to fame. How did an unquestionably inimitable ingredient ever come to be so coveted around the world?

Although balsamic vinegar production has been documented as dating back thousands of years, it’s only been since the mid-1700s that today’s standard recipe—an inky liquid with striking acid and well-founded profundity—became the norm. The word “balsamico,” rooted in the word “balm,” refers to the resin of the balsam tree. The etymology carries medicinal and soothing connotations, but the product itself isn’t made from sap. The familiar recipe involves cooking down Trebbiano and Lambrusco grape must (freshly crushed grape juice), varieties indigenous to the Emilia-Romagna region.

The resulting juice—eventually syrup—is transferred over the course of many years through a series of barrels, called a batteria, descending from 100 gallons to about 10 at its smallest, like a series of nesting dolls, each one imparting a specific flavor and structure to the final product. The barrels are made from a number of different woods (traditionally seven varieties), including oak, ash, and cherry. The vinegar spends anywhere from a minimum of 12 years to more than 25 in some cases (those earn the rank of “extra vecchio”—extra old) on its journey. But after spending time with a handful of families and their batterias, I learned that what happens in those barrels over time is what gives the vinegar its mysticism; this liquid is an extension of family, literally.

Balsamico was never intended to be more than a dowry. Beginning in the 1800s, the vinegar was uniquely produced by mothers for their newborn daughters. On their wedding day, daughters would be gifted their batterias. A slow and steady river of this “black gold” pours from the sibling cities of Modena and Reggio Emilia, the only two regions in the entire world certified to produce the nonpareil vinegar. And while both exist in the land of fast cars (Ferrari, Maserati) and slow foods (Parmigiano-Reggiano, prosciutto di Parma), I’ve taken a long and winding bus through their lush rolling hills, fortressed amongst medieval municipalities. I’ve seen vinegar makers concealed amongst its mosaics, a tradition upheld with utmost patience.

On a visit to E-R, your quest for balsamic enlightenment should begin at the Museo dell’Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale in Spilamberto, where an assemblage of artifacts, and a full tutorial on the traditional methods of balsamico making, are on display. Or one can befriend a modern maestro, like Mariangela Montanari of La Cà dal Nôn in Modena. Motanari gives a different perspective on the cultural significance of balsamico, as she’s been working in an acetaia since her preteen years, literally following in the footsteps of her father through the lofts of their home attics.

Traditionally, balsamico is made sotto tetto, or under the roof. The batterias are stored in home attics, the warmest part of these buildings— allowing them to absorb the peak heat of summer that starts the necessary fermentation process that gives balsamico its undeniable flavor over time.

On a visit, Montanari gave me a priceless bottle of Demetria, named for her grandmother who passed away a few years back. The vinegar is perfumed with jammy mulberries from the wood of the barrel, the same scent Motanari remembers coming off the steam of the boiled potatoes her grandmother would dress in a thick black slick of balsamico.

What I’ve learned in researching these vinegars is that these days traditional balsamico is no longer familial. Although it might seem like balsamico’s an old staple, it’s actually only been on the world stage for about 50 years—and even most Italians outside of the Emilia-Romagna region had very little experience with the product before that.

Unfortunately, with this international growth, the quality of the product has suffered, and the majority of balsamic vinegar today is made via an industrial process involving stainless steel tanks, acetators, an overly complex and intentionally confounding labeling system, and an overabundance of unregulated imposters. That is, most of the balsamic you encounter today isn’t really balsamic at all. Those salad bar “balsamics” and glazes aren’t real.

While it’s true that thousands of Italian families still make balsamic for their own consumption, there are only about 300 balsamic vinegar producers certified to sell the most authentic of traditional balsamic vinegars, those that can call themselves DOP Tradizionale (Denominazione di Origine Protetta), a quality assurance. The annual yield of commercialized DOP balsamico is only about 7,500 liters. At 100 ml per bottle, that’s only 75,000 bottles in total—for the world.

Some of those bottles can cost upwards of a couple hundred dollars a bottle, which may seem excessive, but I swear to you: If you have the good stuff, it’s worth it. Let’s assume that there are about 20 drops per ml. That’s 2,000 drops per bottle, which is, on average, only a dime a drop. There’s a reality: quality problem when faced with 250 ml or 500ml bottles of balsamic vinegar (or “balsamic vinegar”) sold on the supermarket shelf for under $10. Be warned: This is a cheap knockoff of the prized products of E-R. And here’s the problem with the imitators: If we don’t recognize the value of the authentic aceto balsamico, we’ll eventually be without it, as the cost of production outweighs the need to produce more.

Clearly, there’s way more balsamico in the world than 75,000 bottles. Balsamic vinegar is a $1 billion market, with economics driving the range in quality and authenticity. IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) balsamico —which is the less strict of the two major denominations (DOP and IGP)—counts for about 100 million liters, over 90 percent of which is exported. IGP was a democratic answer to the high demand of an exclusive product (DOP).

DOP balsamico is highly regulated by a consortium, which oversees the production and certification of these vinegars. What I’ve come to understand as a private society of tasters rigorously screens each batch for quality control, assigning red, silver, and gold labels in Reggio Emilia, and white and gold caps in Modena, to the vinegars that meet (and exceed) their standards.

Sadly, the grapes used to make IGP can come from anywhere in the world, as long as the grapes themselves begin the balsamic-making process within the DOP region and stay there for at least 60 days. After that, they can be transferred to facilities all over the world. What’s lost is not only the distinct flavor of a region, but also much of the character and nuance— similar to what happens with a poorly made wine. Some IGPs are above board, but a lot aren’t, and it’s hard for the consumer to know which is which. Upon tasting them side by side, there’s no comparison: One smacks of passion; the other, a clumsy kiss. The resemblance is little more than an unbalanced appearance of acidity and color, maybe a twice-removed cousin, but barely family.

There’s also credible version of balsamicos in the midrange between IGPs and DOPs called condimento, which I’ve been impressed with—not only for their flavor, but for their affordability. These tend to have more individual character but don’t fall within the bounds of what balsamico has historical been, which leads to their demise with the consorzio, but actually makes them pretty interesting. Each maker has their own expression, seen through changes in season and sometimes the order of the barrels and time in which they sit in each one.

While the overall story of balsamico is heavy on how it’s made, I think the most important chapter is about how it’s used. I’ve learned that there are a few rules to live when it comes to true balsamic vinegar. First: Consider it a condiment, not an ingredient in a recipe. Second: Never cook it; it’s already been “cooked” for at least 12 years by time. With that in mind, it’s superb over substantial shards of various ages of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or slightly warmed over a plate of risotto alla Parmigiana, or with a bowl of tortelli di zucca (squash-stuffed pasta).

It seems overzealous to submerge a hot seared filet of beef or even cold sliced bistecca in balsamico, but I’ve witnessed both, as routinely as I’ve seen it topping cold and creamy panna cotta or gelato for dessert. Even a small sip from a spoon as an after-meal digestive makes sense, but there’s a slight socioeconomic hitch: In its unhurried recipe, how long until there’s no “real” balsamic vinegar left? In this day and age of faster, bigger, easier, can something so traditional survive? It’s up to us to hasten our appreciation for aceto balsamico, that we’ve already waited this long to enjoy.