Whether you are a budding chef or someone who knows their way around the kitchen, balsamic vinegar is an essential ingredient for many dishes. Like olive oil, there is a big difference between poor quality and the taste of the good stuff. A lot of the time you aren’t going to be using it for cooking, instead, you can use it to marinate, dip bread in, and flavour salads so you want to be able to taste the quality.
The best balsamic vinegar comes from one of two Italian regions, Medina, and Reggio Emilia. A lot fo the time ‘DOP’ os a good indication that the bottle is going to be better than most. They are barrel-aged, whilst others are made from a collection of grapes from different regions but everything in my top ten list below is going to be a great addition to your pantry.
My Picks for The 10 Best Balsamic Vinegars
#10 OMG! Oils: Balsamic Vinegar
This small-batch balsamic vinegar uses Modena grapes before it is crafted in Napa Valley using natural ingredients. They are aged for 12-18 years using the Solera method which entails which involves adding the contents of a younger barrel over the years of ageing when it evaporates. It is versatile enough to be used on salad dressing or mix up the flavour of a pizza by drizzling it on top. It’s an every day balsamic that you won’t be precious over, but will appreciate it every time you use it.
Good value and fine for every day use
#9 Giuseppe Giusti – Historical Collection – Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP
This is a serious balsamic vinegar for the refined tastes of those who enjoy a bit of quality in the kitchen. It has a sweet aroma with flavours of plum jam with hints of vanilla and honey to make it a balsamic that has to be experienced. They claim to be the oldest manufacturer in the world and is a secret recipe passed down over centuries in the same family. This is an award-winning recipe that looks great in the well-presented bottle and one article names it one of the 101 products you should try before you die.
Recipe has been passed down over centuries
#8 Belazu Balsamic Vinegar Bottle 250 ml
From. Modena, Italy comes this popular balsamic vinegar that is often found in the pantry of the restaurants of top
Michelin star chefs in Britain. The grapes are matured in cherry wood, oak, chestnut, juniper, mulberry, and chestnut barrels to create a memorable flavour that helps it stay naturally sweet. With no added flavours or preservatives it is gluten-free and a winner of 3x great taste stars which shows just how much quality there is in every bottle. Compared to a lot of the other brands it is reasonably priced and is known for being sweet and sticky.
No artificial flavours
#7 Roland Foods Balsamic Glaze, 12.84 Ounce
This is a glaze more than a vinegar but it still gives you that sticky, acidic taste when poured over salads or mixed into your favourite dish. Use it with grilled chicken or drizzle over freshly cut mozzarella for a tangy taste that makes your tastebuds happy. This isn’t the most expensive, nor is it the most exclusive taste but it can be an important addition to your cupboard when you need to add some flavour. The picky chef will prefer something a bit more refined but it works for me.
Tastes great on mozzarella
#6 Aged Italian Heirloom Balsamic Vinegar
This gourmet balsamic vinegar is in some people’s eyes, as good as it gets in terms of flavour. Because it is from Modena, you know there is a good chance that it is going to be delicious, and going by the many glowing reviews, they are certainly getting that part right. Barrel-aged, it can be used as a salad dressing, drizzled over meat, or used as a dipping sauce. Pair it with your favourite cheese and enjoy the acidic flavour and aroma of this 12-18 year aged balsamic vinegar.
Can be used as a dipping sauce
Aged for 12-18 years
#5 Louianna Certified Organic I.G.P. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
Using Trebbiano grapes from the Modena region, this organic balsamic vinegar and is found in the pantry of the TV show Top Chef Canada. It features an intense aroma and an enticing acid flavour that will freshen up your meal. It lasts for up to 5 years when opened if kept out of direct sunlight and is made to strict organic guidelines making it GMO-free and no added sulphates. It’s good value compared to some of the other famous brands and should last a long time as the eye-catching bottle stands out on your kitchen top.
Stays fresh up to 5 years
#4 Due Vittorie Oro Gold Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.
Complete with cork and pourer, this two-pack offers excellent value and a quality balsamic vinegar to go with it. Not only does it help aid digestion, but this particular brand was featured on MasterChef and won best balsamic vinegar 3 in a row. It has an intense yet acidic smell and a balanced and pleasant taste that makes it a high-end product and a favourite of many kitchens. The Due Vittorie brand is one of the biggest in Italy which tells you a lot about this product.
2 pack is good value
Made by a big brand in Italy
#3 Oliviers & Co Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Organic)
It can be hard to find premium organic products that are reasonably priced as well. This is 100% natural and of course, has no artificial flavourings or colours to worry about. Produced in Modena, you get the famous origin on the label in your kitchen and it has a subtle acidity that makes it perfect for glazing and dipping bread. It is at its best when tasted with vegetables as it adds a silky balsamic flavour to a bland dish. Many people comment on how it is the best balsamic vinegar they have ever tasted and you get a good balance between value cost and quality, it will certainly improve the flavour of home cooking.
Produced in Modena
#2 MiaBella Balsamic Vinegar
MiaBella have crafted a high-quality balsamic vinegar that has a 4.5% acidity and is certified form the region of Modena. It is versatile enough to eat with all sorts of dishes, including cheese and strawberries, this small-batch bottle is made with only Trebbiano grapes. There are no added chemicals or flavours, only organic agriculture is used to ensure purity and quality. The eye-catching bottle means it would make a great present for anyone who loves to cook and when used to marinate food, it provides a real punch that stays with you. numbered and ages for up to 18 years it is one of the best on the market.
No added chemicals or flavours
#1 Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Traditional 25 year old DOP certified
This is the sort of bottle that would usually be saved for special occasions but when you taste it, regular balsamic vinegar will not quite cut it ever again. In the traditionally shaped bottle of Modena, it has been aged for a minimum of 25 years and comes with a stellar reputation and the highest score a balsamic vinegar can achieve. It makes an excellent gift or luxury item and will transform the taste of cheese, meat, salads and other dishes or can be enjoyed on its own. The DOP certification means you know it comes from the renowned Modena region and comes in a classy presentation box.
Highest quality balsamic vinegar
Aged for a minimum of 25 years
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Balsamic Vinegar Buyer’s Guide
I used to think that picking up any old brand of balsamic vinegar at the supermarket would suffice until I started to care about the ingredients I use in home cooking. The deeper I delved, the more nuances I experienced and revealed. Although many will think this is a simple product, saved for flavoring salads and the likes, quality Balsamic vinegar has a lot to offer with unique flavors and added quality that goes way beyond the origin (although this is important!).
To help make some of these facets clearer, I have created the following buyer’s guide so you know what a quality bottle looks like when checking the label.
Different Types of Balsamic Vinegar
This is one of the most important things to know and is what will distinguish between the quality products and the cheap imitators. Some people believe that every product with an Italian label is considered a true Balsamic, but this is not the case. It is all down to Italian law as to what can call itself Balsamic, and there are two main types.
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar DOP (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale DOP)
Aged for at least 12 years, this is considered the elite type of balsamic vinegar. The flavors are more complex which is why it is so sought after so expect to have to pay a little more for the privilege of drizzling this over Bruschetta or dipping bread into it. This type of balsamic is made only in Modena or Reggio Emilia, and the production methods are monitored by the Traditional Consortium to ensure its quality. The more it ages, the thicker and more concentrated it becomes.
Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP )Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP)
Aged for less time, it is still a well-respected balsamic although it doesn’t enjoy the same reputation as traditional DOP. To keep up with demand on the traditional regions, this type still uses quality grapes such as Fortana, Trebbiano, Montini, Albana, Lambrusco, among others typical to the Modena region.
However, these grapes do not need to be produced there, only processed in Modena. They are aged for only a minimum of two months which means the producer can keep up with the demands of a mass market. Expect an authentic taste, although there is a little room for additives such as caramel flavor.
Not strictly a balsamic but close to it. Condimento is a wide term used to label glazes and sauces and is not subject to certain procedures that ensure the quality of balsamic. Often used as a dressing or a dip, it is more affordable and because of the lack of restrictions over the production process, companies can get creative. However, this also means the quality is going to suffer.
Age Is Important
Much like a fine wine that gets better with age, certain types of balsamic vinegar benefit from more time in the barrel. Traditional balsamic must be aged for 12 years as a minimum, with some being aged for twice that. Even Modena IGP balsamic can be aged for a few years, although a couple of months is the minimum.
If you want an indicator as to the quality of the product, the age is a good place to start. The cap can indicate the age of a Traditional Balsamic. Anything made in Reggio Emilia with red caps shows a product aged for 12 years. A silver cap for anything that has been aged for 15 – 25 years, and gold for anything above that. For the Modena region, a white cap indicated 12 years of aging, and gold for 25 years and above.
What Can Balsamic Vinegar Be Used For?
It can be used for some of the obvious recipes such as drizzling over Bruschetta and salads, but at times, I like to get creative. I’m not as brave as some of the Italians who like to add it to a tonic, but it is not uncommon to see someone pour a little over ice cream for something a little different.
The likes of soups are another commonplace to find it and can add some zest to a tomato-based sauce. Balsamic vinegar is the sort of ingredient that allows you to get creative. I remember feeling brave drizzling it over risotto, now I can’t make one without using it as the finishing touch. A little goes a long way, thanks to its strong notes and some brands really pack a punch with plenty of complex notes that cheaper bottles do not offer.
A lot of people will dismiss this as a company getting a bit creative, even I was surprised to find out that the bottle shape of balsamic vinegar matters. Traditional balsamic vinegar comes in two different shapes indicating which region it is from. The spherical shape is the same for both Modena and Reggio Emilia, but a rectangular base means it is from Modena, and anything from Reggio Emilia will come in a long bottle.
What Is Caramel Color In Balsamic Vinegar?
Although this ingredient is commonly used to sweeten, this is not the case for balsamic. instead, caramel color is used to darken the appearance. However, a lot of people consider this to be the sign of a fake balsamic, and it is often the sign of a product that is low on quality.
How Much Does Good Balsamic Vinegar Cost?
This can be a matter of personal taste but there is something the experts all agree on, quality balsamic is not available for $10. This means you will have to spend a little extra to get something noticeably different to what you have been buying at the store. Anyone with a budget of around $30 will be able to pick up a bottle of balsamic vinegar that is still high in quality.
However, anything aged for 25 years is going to come at a price, and deservedly so. Certified traditional balsamic of this age can easily fetch over $100 a bottle. It might not be necessary to start here, but if you do, it will be well worth it.