Real balsamic vinegar is a slightly sweet and tart vinegar that is made in small batches and is extremely expensive. Traditional balsamic is made with only one ingredient, and that is “grape must.” Grape must is freshly crushed fruit juice from grapes. That’s it, one ingredient, and aged for at least twelve years. It’s really hard to describe the taste of real balsamic vinegar to anyone who hasn’t tried it yet as authentic balsamic vinegar tastes nowhere near any of the commercially produced and sold balsamic vinegar. How exclusive is authentic balsamic vinegar? The last certified DOP balsamico count was at 7,500 liters per year, that’s about 75,000 one hundred milliliter bottles for the entire world.
Balsamic Vinegar Trivia
- Authentic Balsamic Vinegar can cost up to $200 per ounce!
- Balsamic Vinegar contains no balsam, it just looks like it.
- Balsamic vinegar was originally made to be given as a dowry. Mothers would start making a batch when their daughters were born and the finished product to be given on her wedding day.
- Balsamic vinegar is made like wine and a good balsamic vinegar usually commands the price as a good bottle of wine.
- If you have a good bottle of balsamic vinegar, use it.
Balsamic Vinegar Buying Guide
Commercially produced balsamic vinegar is created by mixing grape must with wine vinegar. This is much more time-efficient than producing balsamic vinegar in the traditional way. This is also one of the reasons why there are strict labeling requirements when it comes to balsamic vinegar. We’ll go over the types of balsamic vinegar that you can see on store shelves to see what they actually are.
- Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI — This is imported from Italy, more specifically the Modena Region. If it has the Protected Geographic Indication mark, then these conform with the EU production regulations for making balsamic vinegar.
- Balsamic Vinegar – The most common label, this has no indication of where it is produced or if it conforms with the standards.
- White Balsamic – Same with generic balsamic vinegar, but only colored white.
- Balsamic Glaze – This is made to imitate the syrupy texture of authentic balsamic vinegar, using sweeteners and thickeners to imitate the texture.
- Traditional Balsamic Vinegar – These are considered true artisan balsamic vinegar and aged at least 12 years. This may or may not carry the Protected Designation of Origin seal on it and these conform to the standards set by the European Union. These are usually found only in specialty stores or from online sellers as these can cost anywhere from $50 to $200 per small bottle.
- Condimento Balsamico – While not officially conforming to the European Standards, these are made in the style of traditional balsamic vinegar and they can be at par in quality with some of the Traditional Balsamic Vinegars.
Some things to look for when purchasing balsamic vinegar:
- Ingredients – The vinegar should only contain grape must and wine vinegar. Caramel and aged vinegar are also acceptable additives for good balsamic vinegar.
- Viscosity – While this can be faked with thickeners and additives, it comes back to the first point, the ingredients panel. If the balsamic vinegar is slightly viscous and it has no other additives on the label, then chances are that it’s a good quality balsamic.
- PGI or IGP Seal – If either of these is present then it conforms to the standards set by the European Union and its production is strictly regulated. Top-quality here is guaranteed.
- Price – Rule of thumb. The more expensive it is, the better it probably will be.
Balsamic Vinegar Production & Farming in Texas
Texas is home to a number of balsamic vinegar producers that produce their balsamic vinegar using only grape must and grape wine vinegar. While they aren’t certified by as being traditional balsamic vinegar, they are made in the style that these traditional balsamic vinegars are made. Another reason why they cannot be certified is that traditional balsamic vinegar needs to be made from grapes from certain regions in Italy.
Some local balsamic vinegar producers also add a local twist to their product, infusing their balsamic vinegar with local flavors like blueberries, figs, pomegranate, and other locally grown fruits.
Of course, these can never be considered truly authentic, but if they’re made in the standards that true balsamic vinegar is made with, then that’s good enough for us.
Balsamic vinegar only comes in bottles. Any other type of packaging would seem strange.
Enjoying Balsamic Vinegar
As we mentioned earlier, if you have good balsamic vinegar, then use it as much as you can. A good balsamic can not only add flavor to your dish but also enhance the existing flavors.
As long as balsamic vinegar is stored in a cool and dark place, it should last for years on end. Just make sure to close the cap tightly after each use.
How Balsamic Vinegar is Made:
Unless you have twelve years to spare to prototype your balsamic vinegar, we would suggest buying a traditionally made balsamic vinegar.
It is actually quite simple to make; it just takes a lot of time.
The first step to creating traditional balsamic vinegar is to get grape must and boil it down until it has the consistency of a syrup. This is then fermented until it forms a vinegar. After it forms into a vinegar, this will be transferred to different wooden barrels. Since the aging process reduces the volume of the vinegar by roughly 10% a year, it is transferred to a smaller barrel every year to minimize the air inside the barrels.