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Ironically, there are two threads about Balsamic already in this section. One started in 2007 by Seaquam, one in 2008 by me. Neither went anywhere. It seems both Seaquam and I have educated ourselves a bit in the past 6-7 years.

I'm reposting our thoughts on the subject from the olive oil thread here:

quote:
Originally posted by me:
Huge difference between balsamics; and, yes, stuff where the grapes going in actually matter is exactly what I, and I think Seaquam, was referring to. Razz Wink

Of the industrial stuff, my genuine favorite by a lot is the Costco Kirkland brand. I always have a bottle in my apartment. I use it for cooking, marinades, dressings and sauces.

98+% of "Balsamic Vinegar of Modena" is NOT true Balsamic. And real Balsamics will say "tradizionale" on the label. (And might say Reggio Emilia rather than Modena.)

Even among the non-tradizionale, there are some excellent ones whose primary crime is not in care of grapes, but in aging of the vinegar. For example, FINI "Balsamic vinegars" start at $10/250ml and get increasingly expensive as more and more care and time goes into the aging process. I mention FINI as this is a decent and about-as-inexpensive-as-it-gets intro to non-industrial balsamic. It is nowhere near the best of the non-tradizionales, though.

My normal "high end" Balsamic of choice is also not a tradizionale (for reasons of economics). I love >this< which, by-the-by, is made by the chef at the ***Michelin, Osteria Francescana, generally considered the best restaurant in Italy.

The true tradizionales tend to start at about $1/ml. And can get up beyond $5/ml. I've only ever had the "inexpensive" ones, and I've only ever bought the real stuff myself once. It was awesome.



and...
quote:
Originally posted by Seaquam:
quote:
Originally posted by winetarelli:
Huge difference between balsamics; and, yes, stuff where the grapes going in actually matter is exactly what I, and I think Seaquam, was referring to. Razz Wink

Of the industrial stuff, my genuine favorite by a lot is the Costco Kirkland brand. I always have a bottle in my apartment. I use it for cooking, marinades, dressings and sauces.
Me, too! I always have a bottle of this. It's fairly sweet and concentrated, a real bargain in balsamic. Unlike most other inexpensive ones, it can be used "as is" rather than having to be reduced to use effectively as a condiment.

I also have a small (8.45 oz) bottle going of 1998 Giuseppe Giusti 4° Centenario, which is richer and a bit sweeter. I use this only for topping grilled steaks sometimes, or for making a very quick dessert by slicing strawberries and tossing them with a bit of this balsamico and then sprinkling them with a bit of icing sugar. I serve it either as is, or over some vanilla ice cream. Sometimes I'll nap a risotto with it.

My previous luxury balsamic vinegar came from Costco as well, a 20 year-old (it was THIS one ) that was particularly thick and rich. When the Giusti is gone, I will buy another one of those. They tend to last around 2 years or so in my home.

I agree 100% that there's a huge difference between balsamics, just as there is between different wines, different olive oils, different cars, different watches, different television sets, etc. Like most of those items, the law of diminishing returns kicks in here; sometimes you have to spend quite a bit more to get something that may only be a little bit better. We all make the final decision regarding what's important to us, and how much we're willing to spend.

The bottle Seaquam linked to from Costco is very much the real thing. Smile
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For the high end vinegars, aren't their uses pretty limited? The one nice bottle I bought (at a tasting at a boutique in Modena) I used mostly to drizzle on Parmiggiano-Reggano DOP or some other grana. It lasted me years. As with most people, I assume, I use balsamic in salads; it just seemed a waste to use the good stuff when an 'industrial grade' does the trick with oil or in a vinagrette.

Lately, I have been using Monari Federzoni, 'Etichetta Argento,' Modena IGT, 6%, and a Spanish Vinager, Sanchez Romate Hermanos, Vinagre de Jerez, PX, 9%
My "high end" balsamic is used only for dipping and salads. When I use it on a salad it is only for nice lettuces (generally tricolore) and used with a top olive oil, some sea salt and black pepper... and often some reggiano parmesan. I find it particularly wonderful with raddichio and reggiano parmesan and I have been known to omit the Belgain endive and arugula and just create a salad of raddichio with some parmesan, olive oil, balsamic, and a pinch of sea salt.

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