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Looking for a good, inexpensive balsamic vinegar

Does TJ's have one?

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      1. The Gold Quality Balsamic in the small bottle with red label at Trader Joe's is widely well regarded as being good enough to drizzle.

        3 Replies
        1. re: NuMystic

          Gah. That's what I get for passing on a suggestion based on what I've heard from others alone.

          The Gold Quality Balsamic at Trader Joe's is VILE. It's also not even a true Balsamic being made from wine vinegar. Has none of the sweet thick character one finds in the real thing.

          So, the most "inexpensive" authentic balsamic I can wholeheartedly recommend at this point is the Fairway Super Premium Balsamic Vinegar of Modena at $20 per liter. Don't mistake the Premium for this one, the "Super Premium" is dramatically better. Not as luxuriously thick as the more expensive varieties but the flavor profile is superb for a "budget" Balsamic. Definitely good enough for dipping, drizzling, and reductions.

          If that is still outside your budget, the most palatable "fake" balsamic I've had is the Rozzano brand carried at BJ's at about half the price of the Fairway Super Premium.

          1. re: NuMystic

            You might want to give this a shot. It's not the $200 a bottle stuff (I've had that exactly once), but it ain't bad and tasted pretty darned good on strawberries.

            http://fitbottomedeats.com/2013/01/ho...

            1. re: grampart

              I reduce the Trader Joes $4/liter to 1/4 volume. Not the $200 kind but quite nice dressing.

        2. I like the Isola brand - get mine at Whole Foods.

          1. Hate to reply to an old thread that has been reawakened, but I can't help myself. Asking for good inexpensive balsamic vinegar is like asking for a cheap high quality diamond. Doesn't exist. Real balsamic vinegar is expensive. If you understand how its made, you know why its expensive. Cheap balsamic is a facsimile of real balsamic vinegar. Its basic vinegar with coloring and flavorings added. Fine for making a salad, but not the same thing. Cubic zirconium of the vinegar world.

            9 Replies
            1. re: Bkeats

              This might be true but an inexpensive Balsamic vinegar although not the aged, high quality product that you speak of can still be quite good if it has the flavor that you enjoy and works great in salad dressing. I haven't bought a bottle of Balsamic vinegar that was more than $10 and rightfully enjoy it and use it often for roasted vegetables and salad dressings. What do you use your higher quality vinegars for just out of interest?

              1. re: fldhkybnva

                One of my favorite things to do is drizzle just a bit on some good parmigiano cheese. The combination of savory with the tartness and sweetness of the vinegar is perfect. Also works with just plucked asparagus or tomatoes from the garden.

              2. re: Bkeats

                That no $15 bottle is going to compare with those aged and imported which cost $200+ goes without saying.

                Even so, the best chefs in the world still make use of "common" balsamic in a myriad of ways. Just because it's going to be used in something as lowly as a vinaigrette doesn't mean it's not worth asking what the best choices are in such budget varieties.

                Even in the "cheap" stuff there is a vast range of quality and character to be found, so recommendations here are just as valid and valuable as at any other price point.

                1. re: NuMystic

                  I don't disagree with what you say. However, I've noticed most people won't even buy the $15 commercial grade vinegar. The most popular stuff to me seems to be the under $5 stuff like Trader Joe's. Its the same with good olive oil. Most people won't pay $30 for 1/2 a liter. They want the $8 for a liter. Which is fine for a saute but when you want to drizzle good olive oil or balsamic vinegar on something where that's what you are going to taste, the cheaper stuff as you say doesn't compare. Doesn't mean there isn't a place for it. I'm only saying good and inexpensive generally don't work together on limited production hand crafted products.

                  1. re: Bkeats

                    Yea, even with the common Balsamic I won't go below $10 usually and it's usually for a fairly small quantity. There is a difference I've noticed even in that small price range of $15 to less than $5. Actually, I'm not sure I've seen many bottles less than $5

                    1. re: Bkeats

                      Understood, but you still continue to make it sound as though good and expensive are mutually exclusive which is absolutely not always the case as proven repeatedly in blind taste tastes.

                      Even a lowly Trader Joe's product like the California Estate EVOO, hardly the finest available, has still trumped oils 5 and 10 times more expensive in tastings. (granted it's also not the cheapest at TJ's)

                      I'm not saying that there aren't countless culinary products worth splurging on, or that vinegar isn't one of them, but it adds no value whatsoever to promote such things in a thread explicitly asking for budget recommendations. A very specific request which by definition acknowledges that more expensive choices exist and would likely be recommended if not for the stated budgetary consideration.

                      1. re: NuMystic

                        We'll just agree to disagree then. Tastes differ. What may be good to you may only be ok to me and vice versa. I've never had a balsamic vinegar <$10 that I would call good. Passable maybe, but good? No. Gradations for sure can be made at any price point. Better and worse. But I will standby my statement that for my tastes that good and inexpensive don't go together in this category. Next thing is someone will ask for cheap good prosciutto. There's cheaper stuff to be had but when you taste it side by side with the good quality stuff, the cheaper version pales. The effort required to produce good quality product makes it impossible to have good and inexpensive. Same with scotch. Plenty will disagree with me I'm sure. To be clear, I'm not saying that everything that's more expensive is better just because it costs more. Plenty of overpriced stuff out there.

                        1. re: Bkeats

                          Then where is your suggestion for something cheap and passable? If there's nothing under $10 you'd call good, then where's your recommendation for a $15 or even $20 bottle? Or whatever you believe the be the absolute cheapest worth using for even the lowliest application.

                          You're entitled to whatever opinion you like and taste is of course entirely subjective, but you've offered nothing but vague snobbery absent details or value.

                          If someone had asked for a recommendation for the best budget car they can get, what you're doing is no different than saying there's simply no such thing as a good cheap car and if they'd learn a thing or two about engineering they'd understand why Bentley, Rolls, and Aston Martins cost what they do. It may be your sincere opinion, but it's neither useful or educational… it's simply being obnoxious for it's own sake.

                        2. re: NuMystic

                          No i argue that the $15 bottles are often good and my preference in fact, but perhaps your comment was addressed at another poster. I will continue with my $10-$15 bottle for daily use. I probably haven't had much experience with the more expensive varieties but I guess my "cheaper" bottle works OK for me as I've never felt the need to spend more.

                  2. For those who use the more inexpensive bottles, any other favorite brands aside from TJs? I have tried Isola and it's pretty good (the 2 leaf variety).

                    1. I usually get mine with my cheese order from iGourmet.com. They always have a good choice for all price ranges. Currently I'm using a very nice Aceto Balsamico Di Modena I.G.P. by Acetum. 2 leaf, 500ml. (16.9 FL OZ) for 9.99.

                      1. Ok real balsamic vinegar geeks, this one's at an Italian deli near me.. does it look like a good one?

                        http://www.platerotisitaliangourmet.c...

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: vegmeister

                          Yes, you don't say how much it costs, and I would like to see the back label, but on the basis of what I read on the front label, it seems an acceptable substitute for the expensive stuff. In all this long thread nobody has talked about what is on the label, except to identify brands, just about price. But in Italy balsamic vinegar is classified and tested. The very expensive stuff, not to be used in cooking but only for finishing (or taken straight in a tiny spoon as a digestive), is called Aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena IGP. It contains ONLY grape must (no vinegar), is aged at least 12 years, and comes in a 100-ml round bottle. To get the designation, and bottle, it is tested by the producers' consortium and must be made by traditional methods. Everything else is made with vinegar or, better, a combination of vinegar and must. At the low end the vinegar is flavored with caramel or worse. You want to read the label and find as few ingredients as possible if you're not springing for the tradizionale. Just below tradizionale is the designation aceto balsamico di Modena IGP, and that is what is in the picture and what you should buy as an alternative. I wouldn't go any lower, because as far as I'm concerned it's junk, and on my salad I put good Italian red-wine vinegar, which seems to have been forgotten in the global balsamic-mania.

                          1. re: mbfant

                            Fairway Super Premium Balsamic Vinegar of Modena - Aged in Wooden Kegs and marked as "Special Occasion Quality" is a bargain at only $19.99 per liter and an insane value when it's occasionally on sale for only $14.99

                            The label reads:

                            This balsamic vinegar is a limited quantity special import brought to you by Fairway.

                            It's flavor is even more complex than our premium balsamic, and it's texture noticeably thicker. The word "balsamico" refers to the vinegar's medicinal qualities. Balsamic vinegar this fine, this old, would retail at any other store for $50 to $90 per liter. Italians would never use it as a vinaigrette ingredient. Rather, they employ it drop-by-drop in various recipes as a braising and de-glazing liquid for protein as diverse as foie gras and calves' liver, for beef, pork, lamb and veal, poultry, game, rabbit and seafood. It is made from the cooked-down must of trebbiano wine grapes, but it was never wine. It is then aged over a period of years from a few to as many as 150. Over the years, portions of different batches are transferred, in turn, from keg to keg. These kegs are made from oak, mulberry chestnut and juniper, and each imparts its singular aromatic esters into the vinegar. The centuries-old practice makes dating the vinegar accurately impossible. Absolutely nothing is added to real balsamic vinegar, though the inauthentic and inexpensive balsamics are blended with red wine vinegar, and some even have corn syrup added to them. This is not one of those. We love to drizzle this fine balsamic vinegar over sorbets, over seasonal berries and peaches, and over slivers of Parmaigiano Reggiano.

                            1. re: NuMystic

                              Interesting. The description is accurate but omits any reference to the standard quality designations or minimum age. In fact, it essentially describes aceto balsamico tradizionale except for the age (minimum 12 years). I'm guessing that this is balsamico that either was interrupted before the 12 years or didn't pass the test. In either case, it should make a more than acceptable second-level product. What ingredients are listed on the bottle? only must? That would be very unusual and very much a bargain.

                              1. re: mbfant

                                No ingredients at all actually which would be highly disconcerting if not for the explicit description and Fairway's very solid reputation.

                                I can't imagine they could use any of the official designations since it appears they are importing this in bulk and bottling it themselves.

                                It's not as syrupy thick as the $50+ certified balsamics but it's leagues better than anything I've had remotely close to this price range.

                                1. re: NuMystic

                                  Well, it sounds good, and the price is right. It should get syrupy with age.

                            2. re: mbfant

                              Hi mbfant thanks for replying. So I haven't been to this deli recently to check prices, but they said they have different balsamic all they way from 11.99 up to $200. I'm betting this one is at least $30. Will report back when I go to the deli possibly today..

                              Btw, I know very little about authentic/real balsamic having never actually had the real real thing; however the Vigo (might be branded Alessi these days) 1.5L 4 year aged (red wine vinegar + grape musts) that I got from Costco a few years back, IMO is not too bad at all and not expensive (well under $15 I think).

                          2. Not sure if this is a good price or not for an 8.5oz 4 leaf:
                            http://m.costco.com/Fini-Limited-Edit...

                            1. Sorry to keep posting.. it may have become my mission to find a reasonably priced, yet excellent, aged (perhaps not for 12+ years, but 4-5+), balsamic, with no coloring etc.

                              So this Roland is aged 5 years and has great reviews on Amazon:

                              http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B001VT8...

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: vegmeister

                                The Roland has sulfur dioxide added to it.

                                The Super Premium Balsamic Vinegar of Modena from Fairway we're discussing above is available online in two sizes:

                                http://www.fairwaymarket.com/shop/cat...

                                If that's still too expensive for you then you'll need to settle for "good/decent" rather than "excellent", and the already recommended Kirkland brand at Costco is likely the best value you're going to get in that realm:

                                http://www.ocregister.com/articles/-2...

                                1. re: NuMystic

                                  Thanks yes, the amazon link for the roland just listed "balsamic vinegar of modena" for ingredients, but then I went to the roland website, and saw the ingredients included sulfites and caramel coloring. Kind of surprising given the stellar amazon reviews. So yes I'm down either ordering the Fairway super premium from their website for $30 inc. shipping, or the Costco Kirkland, or perhaps see if this italian deli has a decent looking inexpensive one (on my way there shortly). The only concern I have with the Kirkland one is it has an iron warning label, but apparently many balsamics can have very trace amounts of naturally occurring iron?

                                  1. re: vegmeister

                                    The Italian deli (Plateroti in Clearwater) had the Fattoria Estense Silver Label for 19.99 so I just went ahead and got it.. apparently it's supposed to be pretty excellent for the price.

                                    http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B000O7E...

                                    1. re: vegmeister

                                      Well it better be at $80 per liter! :)

                                      Enjoy!

                                    2. re: vegmeister

                                      Guessing you're thinking of the lead not iron.

                                      Yes, all red wine and balsamic vinegars have trace amounts of lead. It can vary from bottle to bottle and the warnings you've heard of are on the bottle so it can be sold in California which has the strictest regulations in the country.

                                      Being that balsamic is generally consumed by the occasional spoonful most of us aren't too concerned, but it's always good to be informed:

                                      http://www.environmentalhealthnews.or...

                                      Just realize that if you're buying outside of California you have no way of knowing whether the lead content of any other Balsamic is higher or lower than the Kirkland so it's a complete crap shoot. Even if you stick to only the vinegars listed in that article that had lower than Prop. 65 limits, that was testing done in 2007 and every batch can vary depending on the crops used.

                                      The only way to avoid all traces of lead in Balsamic Vinegar is to simply give it up altogether. Modena style Balsamics are known to have the highest concentrations of any vinegar.

                                      If you want to be certain that it's below California limits you'd have buy one of the few that pay for regular testing themselves so they can promote that they meet Prop. 65 requirements, but then you'll likely need to give up the goal of buying cheap and excellent.

                                      Here are a few:

                                      O California Balsamic ($48 per liter
                                      )http://www.ooliveoil.com/store/vinega...

                                      The only cheap one that I personally know that promotes meeting Prop 65 limits is Monari Federzoni's Green Label (7$ per Liter):
                                      http://www.walmart.com/ip/Monari-Fede...
                                      While the above says nothing but Balsamic in the ingredients, other sites list caramel, must, and wine vinegar which would explain the cheap price.

                                      Archer Farms Balsamic sold at Target tested as below limits back in '09 and costs $16 per liter but can't speak to how good it is personally.
                                      http://www.target.com/p/af-estate-bal...

                                       
                                      1. re: NuMystic

                                        Hi NuMystic, thanks yes I meant lead. The Fattoria Estense Silver Label is quite good. Thanks for the info on the lead.

                                        I found Napa Valley Naturals has 5-year aged (10 year aged are out of stock), organic, prop 65 compliant (well below, according to their FAQ) balsamics that look pretty good with affordable pricing:

                                        http://www.napavalleynaturals.com/Ita...

                                        http://www.napavalleynaturals.com/FAQ...

                                        1. re: NuMystic

                                          Hi NuMystic, thanks yes I meant lead. The Fattoria Estense Silver Label is quite good. Thanks for the info on the lead.

                                          I found Napa Valley Naturals has 5-year aged (10 year aged are out of stock), organic, prop 65 compliant (well below, according to their FAQ) balsamics that look pretty good with affordable pricing:

                                          http://www.napavalleynaturals.com/Ita...

                                          http://www.napavalleynaturals.com/FAQ...

                                    1. re: vegmeister

                                      Not really. That's over $50 a liter for condimento grade without any certification.