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Oct 22, 2008 07:32 AM

Good Balsamic Vinegar?

I am looking for suggestions for a good balsamic vinegar. I don't want to spend more than $20. Thoughts?

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    1. re: lel

      2nd that, also some great evoo! the OP has a slim budget for good balsamic but, just remember to get the most age for the dollar.

    2. A lot of so-called balsamic vinegar is junk, wine vinegar with some caramel coloring and artificial flavoring. The problem is that the real thing (as you'll discover at the excellent Salumeria Italiana) is frightfully costly: $100 for 100cl isn't unusual.

      Luckily, there's a category of aged balsamic vinegars called condimento balsamico which are produced by similar methods to those for the real-deal tradizionale (aged 12 years -- the longer-aged stuff is even more dear), but made by producers not blessed by one of the official consortia or not based in Modena or Reggio Emilia, and are thus a relative bargain.

      I've gotten one condimento balsamico (Cavalli, from Reggio, at South End Formaggio) which was basically the budget, short-aged version of the pricier stuff from a real tradizionale producer. It doesn't have that syrupy, aged quality, which I suppose you can't expect at $25 for 500ml. Maybe this is the kind of thing you're looking for: a nice vinegar for salad dressings and sauces with some of the complexity and flavor of the real thing.

      For a bit more ($30-40), Villa Manodori condimento balsamico is a very close approximation of real tradizionale at a bargain price (thanks for that tip, winedude!).

      1 Reply
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        A big second to the Villa Manodori, and you only really need just a drop or two, even with salad. (I'm not the biggest fan of their olive oil, though). A treat of mine are those car wheat crackers, a slice of good VT cheddar and a drop of the VM vinegar. It's pretty widely available, but I get mine (maybe once every year or two) at John Dewar's in Newton Centre.

      2. This is not the fancy stuff MC Slim JC mentions, it's just plain good.

        Rubio Aged Balsamic, my favorite if I'm not splurging for the great stuff. At $38 it's a real bargain and one bottle lasts a long time.

        1 Reply
        1. re: SSqwerty

          That looks like a pretty nice price for a tradizionale, but it's still 2-3x the price of the condimento balsamicos I'm recommending.

        2. Whole Foods sells some really nice Balsamic Vinegar. I have bought Rao's Balsamic Vinegar and it is so good. It's expensive so I use it only for my best dishes. When I just need a little bit for a recipe I use a less expensive brand but if I am drizzling it on Heirloom tomatoes I use the Rao's.

          1. I'm guessing around $20 or less for a 250ml: Acetum 'I Legni' line cherrywood aged balsamico. Like some other producers, Acetums lines run the gambit from the real deal to even a decent commercial grade. The 'Il Legni' line, if I remember, offers three distinct vinegars, each aged in a different wood - chestnut, cherry and oak. I like the cherry, as I mentioned.