Balsamic vinegar from Italy has a heritage of centuries old tradition. It begins with an aged reduction of Spergola or Trebbiano white grapes. These grapes are boiled down to a syrup in open fired copper cauldrons, very slowly. Once the moisture content of the grapes has been reduced by more than half, the cooking is done. This leaves a concentration that is called the “must”. The must is put into wooden casks. Older balsamic vinegar is added to the cask to promote the acetification process. The aging process of balsamic vinegar takes at least twelve years. Each year the aging balsamic vinegar is moved to different, smaller wooden barrels which are made from a variety of woods. Balsamic vinegar obtains it’s rich wood flavor from these carefully preserved olden barrels. Balsamic vinegar barrels are made from numerous woods, including cherry, oak, chestnut, and ash. Juniper and mulberry balsamic vinegar barrels are a lot harder to find because they are prized for the taste they give to the balsamic vinegar.
As a gourmet shopper, choosing balsamic vinegar at the grocery store can be confusing. It is hard to tell which balsamic vinegar costs five dollars, and which costs forty five dollars. Most of the cheap commercial grade balsamic vinegar is not really balsamico. The best way to find a good balsamic vinegar is taste testing. A shrewd shopper will know exactly what it tastes like before purchasing.
The authentic Italian balsamic vinegar is available in 3.4 ounce bottles. These bottles range in cost from $60 to over $700 a bottle, depending on the age and grade. Balsamic vinegar must be aged at least a minimum of twelve years, but the better ones are aged from twenty five years to fifty years. The oldest aged balsamic vinegars are like a liqueur, and not like vinegar at all. These should be savored drop by drop. A drop of this balsamic vinegar is exquisite in taste and palate.
There are three levels of quality for Tradizionale Balsamic Vinegar. These levels are designated by the Italian producers such as Reggio Emilia. Twelve year aged balsamic vinegar has a red level, or red label. Balsamic vinegar that has been aged twenty years has a silver level, or silver label. The designation of a gold level, or gold label, on balsamic vinegar means that it has been aged for thirty to forty years.
The quality of balsamic vinegar that you purchase will have a big impact on flavor and taste. Purchase the best balsamic vinegar that your budget will allow, and you will taste the difference quality balsamic vinegar brings to your kitchen.
[tags] balsamic vinegar, balsamic, balsamico [/tags]