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Balsamic Vinegar or Balsamico Tradizionale, What Is The Difference?

October 30, 2009

Balsamic Vinegar or Balsamico Tradizionale, what is the difference?

Balsamic Vinegar or Balsamico Tradizionale, what is the difference?

With the rise in popularity of Balsamic Vinegar you may not have realized that most of us have never had the joy of tasting a true Balsamico Tradizionale.  What is the difference between the original and what is available today in most grocery stores?

The process of making true Balsamico Tradizionale is a very lengthy and involved process.  At a minimum Balsamico Tradizionale must be aged for 12 years before it can be labeled as such.  Some are aged as long as 50 years.  The process is closely monitored to ensure quality and adherence to traditional methods.  In addition, this sweet syrupy delight must be aged in wood and cannot contain any of the additives that are commonly used to create commercial Balsamic Vinegar such as wine vinegar, caramel flavoring and caramel coloring.   This accounts for the great price difference between commercial Balsamic Vinegars and Balsamico Tradizionale.  The latter can easily run into the hundreds of dollars for one bottle.  This product is too valuable and flavorful to be used in common salad dressings but instead is served drop by drop.  It should not be cooked but only added to the food right before serving.

Watch this video that shows how a Traditional Balsamic Vinegar is made.

Commercial or “industriale” Balsamic Vinegars can have a wide variety of qualities and flavors.  Commercial varieties can also be labeled as “Aceto Balsamico di Modena”.  Determining the quality of these Balsamic Vinegars can be much more difficult as this product can be made in a number of ways.  For example, “aged in wood” could mean that just some of the product was stored in wood for as little as one month.  That is why many commercial Balsamic Vinegars will state how long they have been aged on the bottle.  Buyers should be aware that price is not always the best determination of quality.  One way to know what you are getting is to check the ingredients, if the ingredients say “Balsamic Vinegar of Modena” instead of listing the ingredients there is no way to know what, if any, additives were used.  These commercial vinegars are used much more liberally in cooking and the making of salad dressings and reductions.  With the wide variety of flavors, sweetness and acidity available, you are sure to be able to find the perfect one for your recipe.

Although different from Balsamico Tradizionale, commercial balsamic vinegar is a wonderful addition to many meals and high quality versions can readily be found.  Have fun sampling the many different balsamic vinegars and discover your favorites.

Best of luck,

Balsamic Vinegar Guide

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jathan November 3, 2009 at 8:26 am

Thanks for the informative article.

I would like to mention that many brand protecting conglomerates will probably try and tell people that only the finest products can be found in their area only, which is simply their opinion. With the world market available to consumers, we can choose to sample vinegar from all over the world which might be made in a similar style to the traditional areas and make the determination ourselves.

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