Balsamic vinegar is a local product produced in the Italian regions of Modena and Reggio Emilia. Authentic traditional balsamic vinegar is an extravagant and pricey condiment. A small bottle of traditional aged balsamic vinegar can easily sell for several hundred dollars, especially if it is 30 to 50 years old. Balsamic vinegar is a treasured gift that is so highly prized, it is sometimes not sold at all. For centuries it has been saved by Italian families for special gifts and wedding dowries. A quality Italian balsamic vinegar is usually served by drops or a thin drizzle, it is never poured. A rich syrupy balsamic vinegar is often used by gourmet chefs as a dessert accoutrement. One popular recipe is simply to drizzle the thick, syrupy balsamic vinegar over a quality vanilla ice cream.There are three types of Italian balsamic vinegar. Traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena has a heritage dating back over a thousand years. Trebbiano grapes are locally grown and processed through the acetificio process over a very lengthy time. After the initial cooking and concentration of the Trebbiano grapes, the thick syrup is placed in special wooden vinegar casks for the aging process to begin. The family estate vinegar master oversees the yearly tending and transferal of this precious commodity from one barrel to another. Traditional balsamic vinegar is required by stringent consortium rules to be aged no less than 12 years.
The commercial or industrial version of balsamic vinegar is produced as an inexpensive alternative to the traditional balsamico. This second grade of balsamic vinegar is often called an imitation balsamic vinegar because it is produced by adding sugar and flavorings along with a very small portion of authentic balsamico. This grade of balsamic vinegar is often used in day-to-day cooking purposes and recipes. Many restaurants would use this type of balsamic vinegar in preparing balsamic vinaigrettes, marinades, and sauces.
There is a third type of balsamic vinegar that is produced by the traditional balsamico producers. It is a blend of traditional balsamic vinegar along with commercial balsamico. This product has become popular due to its taste and affordable price. Even though the content may only have 5 to 10% authentic balsamic vinegar, the producers have made this blend into a very palatable gourmet product. Italian balsamic vinegar follows centuries of Italian tradition. The rich flavored vinegar will be thick and rich and have intense woody aromas with a delicate balance between sweet and sour flavor. A quick tip of identifying quality balsamico is; If you turn a unopened bottle of balsamic vinegar on its side and the vinegar splashes very easily like a wine, it is not an authentic balsamico. If you tip the bottle to one side, and the contents is similar to the syrupy consistency of maple syrup, then you can tell it is a much better quality balsamic vinegar. The price will reflect it as well.