Our best balsamic vinegar reviews will help you select the right one for your kitchen. We’ve all had balsamic vinaigrette at some point in our lives. But it’s shocking how many people have never experienced true, authentic balsamic vinegar.
Balsamic vinegar is a dark-colored vinegar that’s rich, slightly sweet, aged or fermented. Authentic Italian balsamic vinegar is made through a wooden barrel maturing process. The ones made in Modena, Italy are very popular as they are made according to Italian traditions.
When Modena balsamic is IGP certified, you can trust that it’s authentic. The IGP label shows that the balsamic vinegar is from the region where it is produced and processed.
The main ingredient in balsamic vinegar is called “grape must,” which is crushed grapes. So making balsamic vinegar is slightly similar to the wine-making process.
Surprisingly, the best ones aren’t the store bought kind. Usually, they’re imported from Italy, aged several years, and contain the highest quality ingredients.
Plus, high quality balsamic vinegar can be used in a variety of ways. Therefore, it’s a great item for every household chef to have on hand.
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- Best Balsamic Vinegar Reviews 2019
- 1. Best Pick-Giuseppe Giusti Italian Balsamic Wine Vinegar of Modena
- 2. Best Value Pick-Due Vittorie Oro Gold Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
- 3. MiaBella Balsamic Vinegar
- 4. Villa Manodori Balsamic Vinegar
- 5. Best Budget Pick- M.G. PAPPAS Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
- 6. Gourmet Living Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
- 7. Ritrovo Selections 6 yr. Balsamic Vinegar
- 8. Papa Vince Balsamic Vinegar
- 9. Fattoria Estense Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
- 10. QO Thick Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
- Balsamic Vinegar Buyer’s Guide
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Balsamic Vinegar Reviews 2019
Balsamic vinegar should be a staple in any modern kitchen because of its many applications. Whether it’s mixed in dressings, drizzled on mozzarella cheese and tomato, or swirled into soups or stir frys, it adds a sweet yet tart flavor to many dishes.
If you like to bake your own bread, using balsamic vinegar, olive oil and garlic makes for a delicious dip for fresh bread.
We think everyone should have a good balsamic in their kitchen. Many cookbooks include it as a staple item you should always have on hand while cooking.
However, these vinegars can be difficult to find since you can’t just pick them up at your local supermarket. In addition, importing quality aged balsamic vinegar from Italy would also be time-consuming and expensive.
Selecting a high end one takes research and time. You also have to know what to look for. That is why we’ve compiled this list for you.
If you want balsamic vinegar that’s the “real deal,” then try Giuseppe Giusti. They make authentic Italian balsamic vinegars that taste and feel like a true balsamic should.
This pure, authentic vinegar is made from cooked sundried grapes and aged wine vinegar. It’s aged for at least twelve years so the complex flavors can marinate.
It contains notes of plum, honey, and vanilla when bottled. The flavor is still acidic like a true balsamic even though the taste is sweet. It’s perfect for pairing with beef, soft cheese and fruit.
Authentic balsamic vinegar is made in Italy. Giuseppe Giusti is both Italian and family-owned. The family has been making this type of vinegar for over 400 years. They are the longest-running vinegar producer in the world.
The tradition as well as the wood barrels used to make the product have been passed down by 17 generations of artisan balsamic makers.
In addition, it’s also made in 300-year old wood barrels and aged for a minimum of twelve years. This technique adds to the rich, deep, and complex flavors that Giuseppe Giusti has perfected.
Due to the authenticity, this is a premium product that comes at a premium price. It’s the only drawback if you’re on a budget. Nonetheless, it’s long-lasting and well worth the investment.
- IGP certification ensures rigorous testing and purity.
- 5 ounces of award-winning balsamic vinegar.
- Aged for 12 years in 300-year old wood barrels.
- Premium price.
- May be too sweet for some.
- Contains a large amount of wine vinegar, diluting the grapes.
Due Vittorie balsamic vinegar is priced right in the middle so it’s both budget-friendly and premium. It’s also 100% natural, a best-seller in Italy, and regularly featured on the TV show Master Chef.
This producer uses a unique combination of two types of grapes to make this product: freshly harvested white Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes. The result is a full-bodied sweet balsamic that blends well with its level of acidity.
This balsamic will leave you with the after taste of black cherry. It adds a deep flavor to fruits, vegetables, and even ice cream.
This product has received international recognition. It’s been a #1 best-seller in Italy since 2010 and is featured in its top restaurants.This balsamic has also been repeatedly highlighted on the successful TV show Master Chef with Gordon Ramsay himself.
Its international success is no surprise. Due Vittorie is dedicated to combining quality and tradition. The balsamic is slowly aged in durmast barrels that stimulate the transfer of tannins and the absorption of the elements of the wood.
It is then rigorously tested to guarantee its high quality and compliance with regulations. It’s aged for at least 12 years since Due Vittorie is IGP certified. However, we’d like to know exactly how long it is aged for.
- 250 milliliters of balsamic vinegar that includes a free cork pourer.
- IGP certified.
- #1 best-seller in Italy and featured on Master Chef.
- Exact length of aging process is unknown.
- Viscosity may be too thick.
- 6% acidity can cause sourness.
MiaBella is a maker of authentic, high-quality, and versatile balsamic vinegars. The grapes used are also certified organic and aren’t tainted with any artificial flavorings.
Their aged balsamic contains only one ingredient: 100% Trebbiano grapes. It is one of the highest quality sources of grapes used to make pure balsamic vinegar.
There are no added sugars, flavors or preservatives. The grape must is aged in oak and juniper wood cask barrels to enhance its flavor.
MiaBella balsamic is less acidic than other brands. Therefore, it has a nice balance of richness, sweetness, and tanginess. It tastes delicious on meat, fish, salads, fruits and even vanilla ice cream.
Quality and purity are top priorities for MiaBella. Therefore, their balsamic vinegar is only produced in very small batches.
Each bottle is numbered and signed in batches of 1000 which allows full control and consistency. They want to ensure that each batch is smooth, rich, and sweet.
- 5 ounces of balsamic vinegar that’s aged up to 18 years.
- Produced in small batches to ensure quality and consistency.
- Made with 100% organic Trebbiano grapes.
- Premium price.
- Texture may be thicker than others.
- 5% acidity is less than traditional balsamic.
Villa Manodori is a popular choice because of the artisanal quality. This balsamic has a rich flavor, dark syrup color, and glaze texture.
Each bottle undergoes a 10-20 year maturation process in wooden barrels made of oak, juniper, and chestnut. 100 years of family tradition have gone into the making of this vinegar.
This 8.5-ounce bottle is a specialty item that makes for an excellent addition to any kitchen or as a gift.
This product has a premium price because it’s made in limited quantities by a legitimate Modena chef. Massimo Bottura is the chef and owner of Osteria Francescana, a renowned restaurant in Modena, Italy.
Bottura handcrafts this balsamic vinegar using traditional methods of maturation. He sources the ingredients locally. Then, he matures the balsamic until the aromas of the wooden barrels marinate with the sweet flavors of the Modena grapes.
The final product has received lots of attention. It is always in demand because it intensifies the flavors of many different types of foods.
- 5 ounces of artisanal balsamic vinegar.
- Handcrafted by a Modena chef.
- Matured for 10-20 years in fine wooden barrels.
- Available in limited quantities.
- Specialty item is pricey.
- Gourmet balsamic vinegar may intimidate casual cooks.
M.G. PAPPAS is a great choice if you’re on a budget but want to enjoy the highest quality balsamic possible. It competes with the premium options in terms of authenticity, age, purity, and taste. It’s a true, 100% balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy that is IGP Certified.
This product is aged for 10 years in wooden barrels for a smooth, grapey flavor with a delicate acidity. It contains only two ingredients: cooked grape must and red wine vinegar.
It has just the right balance between aged grape must and aged vinegar. It has a nicely balanced sweet and sour taste with just the right amount of acidic bite.
This company never uses any additives, caramels, preservatives, or other artificial agents. They do not want to distract from the naturally sweet and sour flavor of their vinegar. You can use it in sauces for beef and pork dishes and on cheese, salads, bruschetta and fish.
Everyone should have true balsamic vinegar in their kitchen. However, you shouldn’t have to spend an outrageous amount on it.
M.G. PAPPAS is affordably priced and a great choice that fits into nearly any budget. This balsamic is also perfect for drizzling on top of desserts, vegetables, and other dishes. However, it’s sweeter and thicker than other brands.
- 5 ounces of IGP Certified balsamic vinegar.
- Barrel aged for 10 years.
- Sweet and thick consistency.
- Not an ultra premium product.
- May be too thick for some.
- Sweetness may limit versatility.
A good balsamic vinegar has two ingredients: grape must and red wine vinegar. When the balsamic is almost entirely grape must, it takes the flavor to a whole other level.
Gourmet Living has produced a truly pure balsamic. The primary ingredient is cooked and fermented grape musts. It still contains a small amount of red wine vinegar though.
However, it complements rather than overpowers the taste of the must. There are no additives or preservatives in this balsamic.
The grapes undergo a rigorous process. They’re prepared, cooked, cooled, aged, and then bottled. The result is a thick and dark balsamic that’s rich in flavor.
Gourmet Living recommends only using a few drops at a time because of the potency. It’s perfect on top of meats, fish, fruit and even desserts.
This product is produced and bottled in Modena, Italy as a true, authentic balsamic vinegar should be. It is also IGP Certified.
This certification is an extra step that balsamic makers take to ensure their product is the best quality. It is only given to Italian products and confirms that they are produced in the region stated.
Our only reservation is that it has a higher sugar content than other brands. This makes for a sweeter dressing or glaze but may not complement savory foods as much as sweet foods.
- 5 ounces of barrel-aged balsamic vinegar.
- IGP Certified and made from mostly cooked grape must.
- Free of additives and wine vinegar.
- High sugar content.
- More compatible with sweet foods than savory foods.
- Premium price.
Ritrovo’s IGP Certified balsamic vinegar has only been aged for 6 years yet it competes with other high-end options that have aged much longer. In fact, they have found a producer of traditional balsamicos that uses a special evaporation technology. This technology allows their balsamic to taste like it was aged for 25 years in only 6-7 years.
Ritrovo is made with a mixture of Lambrusco and Trebbiano grape must. In addition, they utilize red wine vinegar.
This combination results in an aromatic, thicker, and richer balsamic. This balsamic is great for meat marinades and salad dressings while it also pairs nicely with cheeses and fruits.
Its unique aging process really makes this product stand out from the rest. Ritrovo ages its grape musts in wine barrels made from French oak.
From there, a regulated evaporation process is used to speed up the aging process by almost four times. Instead of paying a premium for 25-year aged balsamic, consumers pay a fraction of the price for one that tastes like it’s matured for much longer.
However, it does give off a wine flavor which may not be desired if you’re looking for a pure balsamic taste.
- 5 ounces of high-end balsamic vinegar.
- Formulated to taste like 25-year aged balsamic.
- IGP certified.
- Only aged for 6 years.
- May have a strong wine taste.
- Evaporation process isn’t traditional.
Authentic balsamic vinegars are usually associated with Modena, Italy. However, this one is made in small batches in Sicily, Italy.
Papa Vince is a Sicilian family-owned balsamic vinegar maker. The grapes are locally grown in Sicily and the balsamic is aged for 8 years. They uniquely age it in cabot and cherry wood which is free of lead lining.
The taste of this product is what makes it truly different from others. Since the main ingredient in balsamic is grape, balsamic vinegars are naturally sweet. Like coffee and wine, balsamic users may describe the flavors according to various notes.
Papa Vince’s balsamic contains notes of fig and raspberry. The fruity taste achieves a nice balance of sweet and tart. Papa Vince uses a lot of red wine vinegar so it also contains notes of red wine. The viscosity is perfect for salad dressings, sandwiches, pizza, vegetables and fruit.
One drawback is that red wine vinegar is the first ingredient. A true balsamic should contain mostly grape must.
This ingredient profile affects the purity and flavor. While the sweet and tart flavor is delicious, it’s questionable whether this balsamic is traditional.
- 5 ounces of Sicilian balsamic vinegar.
- Aged for 8 years.
- Wooden barrels used for maturation are lead-free.
- More red wine vinegar than grape must.
- Overly sweet flavor may affect versatility.
- Some users may not like fig and raspberry flavor.
Have you ever wished you could have access to secret Italian family recipes? Italians are known for their trade secrets when it comes to wine, sauce, and even balsamic vinegar.
Fattoria Estense makes authentic Italian vinegar using their secret Italian family recipes. Therefore, you can make traditional dishes that call for balsamic right at home. Although this bottle travels all the way from Italy, it’s sealed with wax to preserve the freshness.
This product gets its rich flavor from the 10-year process required to make it. First, Fattoria Essence ferments the ingredients. Then, they are aged in wood barrels for a decade.
Most balsamic vinegars are very dark in color, but this one has an amber color. The lighter color doesn’t take away from the depth in taste, however. It has a syrupy texture with a sweet and rich flavor.
Fattoria Essence strongly recommends combining this balsamic with a variety of different foods. It pairs wells with meat, fish, cheese, dressings and fresh fruits.
One drawback is that it contains added sulfites. All balsamics contain naturally occurring sulfites. However, added sulfites are used to preserve the product.
- Affordable price.
- Aged for 10 years.
- 5 ounces of versatile Italian balsamic vinegar.
- Contains added sulfites.
- Added preservatives.
- Thinner consistency than others.
Balsamic vinegars contain very similar ingredients. Some manufacturers must get creative to make theirs stand out. So that’s exactly what QO did.
Their aged balsamic contains only two ingredients: cooked grape musts and red wine vinegar. However, QO achieves a thick density by reducing the grape must to a concentrate.
This creates a very potent flavor profile and a thick, dense full-bodied texture. Due to the concentration of grapes, the balsamic is sweet without added sugars yet balanced with red wine vinegar.
QO also ages their balsamic in wooden barrels, although they do not disclose the length of the aging process.
One characteristic we like about this product is that it’s made with 100% natural ingredients. From the grape musts used to create the balsamic to the final product, QO uses only thoughtful raw materials. There are no added thickening agents or artifical coloring.
The dark color is a natural result of the concentrated grape musts and no preservatives are added to the aged balsamic. While some prefer very thick, high viscosity balsamic vinegar, this one is thicker than the Italian tradition.
- Affordable price.
- 5 ounces of all-natural balsamic vinegar.
- Flavor achieved by concentrating grape musts.
- Thickness may limit versatility.
- Length of aging process is unknown.
- Pairs better with sweet foods than savory ones.
Balsamic Vinegar Buyer’s Guide
You could walk right into any grocery store and pick out a balsamic vinegar off the shelf. However, most store-bought ones lack the authenticity, taste, richness, and versatility of true balsamic vinegar imported from Italy. They’re also packed with sugar, oil, and additives.
Check out the video below to see how traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy is made.
The best balsamic vinegars contain minimal yet high-quality ingredients. They come directly from Italian manufacturers and undergo a lengthy aging process. Here’s what you need to know when deciding which one is best for you.
How to Select the Best Balsamic Vinegar
Most store bought balsamic vinegars are used for salad dressings and there’s nothing wrong with that. They add a lot of flavor to dressings.
For instance, you can make a really simple dish like an Apple & Goat Cheese salad with Honey Balsamic dressing that tastes delicious (we love using Manuka Honey (1 Tbsp), Olive Oil (4 Tbsp), Balsamic Vinegar (2 Tbsp), Dijon Mustard (1 Tsp), sea salt(1/8 Tsp), 1 sliced apple and 1 ounce of wire cut goat cheese on a bed of romaine lettuce).
However, balsamic vinegar can be used for so much more than just salad. If you want a balsamic to drizzle on fruit, vegetables, breads and desserts, then below are the characteristics that make for a good balsamic.
Some things in life just taste better when they’re aged—like wine and balsamic vinegar. This is actually what sets it apart from other vinegars. Balsamic vinegars can differ and therefore yield different results depending on the manufacturer, the length of aging along with the process of aging.
Length of Aging
Traditional balsamic vinegar is aged for 12 years or more. Some are aged for as few as 6 years while others are aged for 25 years or longer. The time period allows the main ingredient—“grape musts,” or crushed grapes—to form into a thick, flavorful syrup. As the balsamic ages, moisture from the grape musts evaporate which causes the mixture to thicken.
The aging process allows the flavors to meld together and become more concentrated. The duration of this process affects the taste and texture. The longer the aging process then the thicker, richer, and sweeter the balsamic usually becomes.
When you hear that a balsamic vinegar has been marinating for 12 years, you might wonder if it’s left to sit in a wooden barrel for all that time. The answer is no. Throughout the years, it is moved to different wooden barrels. The new barrels vary by wood type and size. Typically, the balsamic vinegar will start in a large wooden barrel and slowly move to smaller wooden barrels. For instance, oak and chestnut woods are commonly used to start. ‘Then, it’s moved to other types of wood barrels like cherry, juniper, and cabot.
You’ve probably picked up by now that the best balsamic vinegars come from Italy. Why? It is part of the Italian tradition. Specifically, some of the best come from Modena, Italy. They are made according to the Modena tradition and are considered some of the highest quality. Balsamic vinegars produced in this region of Italy are usually aged for a longer period of time. In addition, they only use 100% Trebbiano grapes.
The purest balsamic vinegars only contain one ingredient: grape musts. However, some contain more than that. Other ingredients may add to the flavor while some decrease the quality. Below are the ingredients worth noting.
You can’t make balsamic vinegar without grape musts. However, you can make balsamic with different types of grape musts.
Traditional balsamic calls for Trebbiano grapes. These white grapes are used to make Italian balsamic and even white wine. These grapes are ideal. They create a sweet syrup that contributes to balsamic vinegar’s naturally sweet and thick texture.
Lambrusco grapes are also used to make balsamic vinegar. These red grapes are usually mixed with Trebbiano grapes to make a thicker syrup.
Red wine vinegar
A balsamic vinegar that only contains two ingredients—grape musts and red wine vinegar—is still considered a good-quality balsamic.
Red wine vinegar may be added to the balsamic to convey an element of acidity. This balances out the sweetness of the grape musts and can also thin out balsamic that is too thick.
Sulfites and additives
You may have been warned to avoid wine or balsamic vinegar with added sulfites. These chemicals are added to fruit-based foods to preserve them. They also prevent them from discoloring or oxidizing. Some people are even allergic to sulfites. If you are sensitive to sulfites, you can avoid balsamic vinegars containing added sulfites. However, most contain naturally occurring sulfites. Therefore, they’re difficult to avoid completely.
Other ingredients commonly added to balsamic vinegars include artificial flavors, caramels, syrups, added sugar, and other flavorings. The best ones though have grape musts as the first ingredient. If they contain a second ingredient, it should be red wine vinegar. Anything else is simply unnecessary. It takes away from the natural taste and quality of the balsamic.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How should you use balsamic vinegar?
A: There are dozens of ways. Here are a few ideas:
- Drizzle on top of savory foods like pizza, bruschetta, and roasted vegetables
- As an ingredient in sauces and dressings
- As a topping for sweet foods like ice cream or fruit
- Stir into soup
- As the base of a glaze
Q: What is authentic balsamic vinegar?
A: Authentic balsamic vinegar adheres to a few requirements. It’s made in Italy with Trebbiano grapes, it’s aged for at least 12 years, and it doesn’t contain any added ingredients.
Authentic balsamic also requires wooden barrels as part of the aging process. The balsamic vinegars at most grocery stores aren’t authentic or traditional. They’re not aged or made in Italy, nor do they contain simple, oil- and sugar-free ingredients.
Q: Does balsamic vinegar go bad?
A: Balsamic vinegars are believed to last indefinitely due to the aging process. You should make sure to check the bottle for the manufacturer’s information on expiration. It may vary. For this reason, you should make sure to store them properly. If sediment settles at the bottom of the bottle, don’t worry. It’s natural and occurs as a result of the lengthy aging process.
Q: How do you store it?
A: Think about it: some balsamic vinegars have been around for decades. It’s not surprising that they don’t have to be refrigerated. You can store your balsamic vinegar in a cool, dark place like your kitchen cabinet or cupboard. Be sure to keep it away from heat and sunlight because this can result in a sour taste.
Q: What are the health benefits of balsamic vinegar?
A: In addition to the great taste, balsamic vinegar does have some health benefits. Like wine, the main ingredient is grapes which are high in antioxidants. These antioxidants can contribute to improved skin health, reduced blood sugar, lowered cholesterol, and healed wounds.
You’ll never realize how much flavor balsamic vinegar adds to your meals until you have a bottle on-hand. Whether you’re vegan, gluten-free, or eat whatever your heart desires, balsamic vinegar adds a unique balance of sweet and savory to your favorite dishes.
The reality is that store-bought balsamic vinegars are full of oil, sugar, and additives. They aren’t in the same playing field as authentic balsamic vinegar made in Italy and aged to perfection.
If you invest in the Giuseppe Giusti Italian Balsamic Vinegar, it will quickly become your secret weapon to turn average dinners into Italian restaurant-quality entrees. As we mentioned before, this is the “real deal” balsamic. If you want the authentic balsamic experience, this is a great fit for you.
If you want to dip your toes in the water before splurging, consider our budget pick, M.G. PAPPAS Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. It’s affordably priced but maintains the premium quality we expect of gourmet balsamics. We also like how it pairs well with desserts.
With so many choices in local stores and even online, it can be hard to distinguish low-quality balsamic vinegars from authentic, high-quality ones.
So we hope that after reading our detailed balsamic vinegar reviews and comprehensive buying guide, you’ll have all the information you need to select the best balsamic vinegar for your kitchen.