Rating Systems

Rating System for Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

There are four quality levels of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.  This rating is for commercial Balsamic Vinegar, not Balsamic Vinegar made the traditional way.

Commercial Balsamics are made by blending traditional Balsamic with simple red wine vinegar and sometimes caramel coloring.  Basically, the higher the ratio of traditional Balsamic to vinegar yields a higher rating.  However, there are other factors that affect rating such as the quality of the wine vinegar and the age of the traditional Balsamic.

You should choose the one that best fits your desired use.  The certification which is issued by the CSQA guarantees that each bottle meets the standards of quality for each classification.  The rating system is one to four Vine Leaves.

1-4 Leaf Rating System

1-4 Leaf Rating System

One Leaf – Suggested for salad dressings and everyday use.  Light flavor and slightly acidic. Vinegar flavor is more pronounced.

Two Leaves – Suggested for marinades, BBQ’s and steamed vegetables.  Here is where you will begin to taste the sweetness of the Balsamic and less of the added vinegar.

Three Leaves – Suggested for roasted meats and fish, warm sauces.  Can be very nice drizzled directly onto the food.  Sweeter than one and two leaf Balsamic.  Smoother flavor.

Four Leaves – Suggested for exclusive recipies, fresh fruits, ice creams, drizzled over parmesan.  Sweet superb taste.

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?

Balsamic Vinegar or Balsamico Tradizionale, what is the difference?

Balsamic Vinegar or Balsamico Tradizionale, what is the difference?

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.

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.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Bob Shagon March 12, 2011 at 11:26 am

I found this very helpful in deciding on a purchase of a particular balsamic vinegar. I now understand what it’s 3 leaf rating tells me about it. Thanks.

Your Host March 12, 2011 at 7:09 pm


Katja March 23, 2011 at 7:56 am

Thank you for the explanation! Just spend 15 min in the store comparing the labels of several different brands of Balsamic vinegars and was very confused on what to get. Now I know what to buy.

Your Host March 23, 2011 at 8:59 am

Thanks! Glad you found the site useful!

Rob September 8, 2011 at 7:16 am

Great Guide I luckily bought the right one!!!!!!!

Yvo December 30, 2011 at 6:20 am

I usually use Wikipedia as my one stop shop for my research, but in this case, this site was definitely more useful because it definitely gave me the information I needed to make an informed decision on my balsamic vinegar purchase.

Matthew October 13, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Thank you. We stood in the grocery store scratching our heads trying to figure which one to buy. Now we know.

Roger November 2, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Excellent info. One query – is the sugar content from added sugar or that which occurs naturally in grape must?

Erik February 24, 2014 at 11:02 pm

now i know just a little more than the average joe when looking for balsamic vinegar, a store up the road sell many varieties at prices i could only dream about, however i may just bite the bullet and purchase a medium priced bottle.

Aly April 10, 2015 at 4:50 am

Hi it looks a bit bland to me, is it possible to add some vine tmeotoas and black pepper for flavour? Sorry but just want to ask if that’s possible without messing up the menu.Theon

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