Balsamic vinegar as we know it has developed in popularity hugely in the passed decade. Made popular by TV chefs and restaurants this vinegar made from grapes this vinegar has a sweet flavour and full bouquet. But not all Balsamic vinegars are created equal, many consumers believe it is the addition of the word Modena that makes a balsamic vinegar great, and whilst this is the region that real Balsamic comes from that is where the similarity ends.
Aceto Balsamico Tradizionele and Balsamico di Modena are actually completely different. The first is the real stuff, highly expensive and only available in limited quantities. This is created by using the juice of the Trebbiano grape and aging it for a minimum of 12-years in wood casks. This vinegar develops a natural thickness during its long aging, Red label are 12-month old and the vinegar is also available in a gold label which is 25-years old. Balsamico di Modena is the flavour and taste available in most stores, and even this doesn’t come in a standard. The requirement is the the vinegar is aged for a minimum of 12-months, but it is not a requirement that it age in wood. The vinegar is usually thickened and has caramel added to it, to try and make it similar to the original stuff. Many purists would argue that only the original is good enough, but for most purposes the original is a terrible, expensive, overkill – dressing a simple salad with Balsamico Tradizionele is like diluting your Lagavulin single malt with Pepsi.
Flavoured vinegars and vinegar reductions are also very popular and there are some amazing products on the market, Thyme to Dine produce a great selection of flavoured Balsamic reductions the work really well with meats, cheeses, etc.