Everything You Need To Know About Balsamic Vinegar

Discover what balsamic vinegar is, how it differs in taste, and the best types to buy with our guide.

Balsamic vinegar is a dark, richly flavoured vinegar from Italy. Known for its complex and robust taste, it blends sweet and tangy notes, making it versatile in many dishes. Traditional balsamic vinegar is made in Modena and Reggio Emilia, aged for years in wooden barrels.

This ageing gives the vinegar its deep, nuanced flavour. Balsamic vinegar enhances salads, marinades, sauces, and desserts. Its unique taste makes it a staple in professional and home kitchens alike.

Read our guide to the choosing the best balsamic vinegar here.

And discover more ways to use balsamic, beyond simple salad dressings.

Shop balsamic vinegar & balsamic glaze here

 


What is Balsamic Vinegar?

Balsamic vinegar is a dark, richly flavoured vinegar originating from Italy. Known for its complex and robust taste, it combines sweet and tangy notes, making it a versatile ingredient in many dishes.

Traditional balsamic vinegar is produced in the regions of Modena and Reggio Emilia, where it is aged for many years in wooden barrels. The ageing process allows the vinegar to develop its deep, nuanced flavour.

Balsamic vinegar is often used to enhance salads, marinades, sauces, and even desserts. Its unique taste profile makes it a staple in both professional and home kitchens.

What is Balsamic Vinegar Made From

Curious about what balsamic vinegar is made of? Balsamic vinegar is crafted from grape must, which is freshly crushed grape juice, including the skins, seeds, and stems.

The must is cooked down to a thick syrup and then fermented and aged in wooden barrels. The ageing process can last from several years to decades, during which the vinegar absorbs flavours from different types of wood, such as oak, chestnut, and cherry.

This traditional method produces a high-quality vinegar with a rich, complex flavour, making it a cherished ingredient in many culinary applications.

How is Balsamic Vinegar Made

The making of balsamic vinegar starts with the grape must, which is cooked down to a thick syrup. This syrup undergoes fermentation and is then aged in a series of wooden barrels.

The ageing process involves transferring the vinegar to barrels made from various types of wood, each contributing distinct flavours. The vinegar is aged for a period ranging from several years to decades, allowing it to develop its characteristic sweet and tangy taste.

The careful craftsmanship and lengthy ageing process ensure a product that is both rich in flavour and deeply aromatic.

Where Does Balsamic Vinegar Come From

Balsamic vinegar originates from the Italian regions of Modena and Reggio Emilia. These areas are renowned for their traditional methods of producing high-quality balsamic vinegar.

The process begins with grape must, which is cooked and aged in wooden barrels. Over the years, the vinegar is moved through different barrels made from various types of wood, each imparting unique flavours.

This meticulous ageing process results in a vinegar with a rich, complex taste that reflects the heritage and craftsmanship of its region. Balsamic vinegar from these regions is highly prized for its depth of flavour and versatility in cooking.

How Long Does Balsamic Vinegar Last

Balsamic vinegar has an impressive shelf life. But how long does balsamic vinegar last once opened? Once opened, balsamic vinegar can maintain its best quality for three to five years if stored properly.

To preserve its flavour, keep it in a cool, dark place with the cap tightly sealed. The vinegar may continue to mature over time, deepening in flavour, but it will remain safe to use.

Avoid exposing it to heat or direct sunlight, as this can degrade its quality. With proper storage, you can enjoy the rich taste of balsamic vinegar for many years.

What Does Balsamic Vinegar Taste Like

Balsamic vinegar offers a unique flavour profile that combines sweetness with tangy and slightly woody notes. Its taste varies depending on the ageing process and the types of wood used in the barrels.

Younger balsamic vinegar tends to be more tangy and sharp, while older varieties are sweeter and smoother. This rich, multifaceted flavour makes it a versatile ingredient in both savoury and sweet dishes.

Whether drizzled over a salad, used in a marinade, or added to desserts, balsamic vinegar adds a depth of flavour that enhances many recipes.

What Can I Use Instead of Balsamic Vinegar

If you're out of balsamic vinegar, several alternatives can serve as substitutes. Wondering what to use instead of balsamic vinegar?

Try using red wine vinegar mixed with a bit of sugar or honey to replicate its sweet and tangy flavour. Apple cider vinegar with a touch of molasses is another good option. For a savoury twist, combine soy sauce with red wine vinegar.

These substitutes can provide a similar depth of flavour in your dishes, ensuring you can still achieve the desired taste even without balsamic vinegar.

What is Balsamic Vinegar Used For

Balsamic vinegar is a versatile ingredient with a variety of uses:

  • Salad Dressings: Adds a sweet and tangy flavour to fresh greens.
  • Marinades: Helps to tenderise and flavour meats.
  • Sauces: Can be reduced to create rich glazes.
  • Roasted Vegetables: Enhances the natural sweetness of vegetables.
  • Fruits and Desserts: Drizzle over strawberries or ice cream for a gourmet touch.

Its rich flavour profile makes it suitable for both savoury and sweet recipes, making it a staple in many kitchens.

How to Use Balsamic Vinegar

Using balsamic vinegar is straightforward and enhances many dishes. Here are the steps:

  • For salad dressing: Drizzle over fresh greens.
  • Marinades: Mix with olive oil and herbs for meats.
  • Deglazing: Add to pans after cooking meat for a rich sauce.
  • Roasted vegetables: Toss with veggies before roasting.
  • Fruits: Drizzle over fresh fruits like strawberries.
  • Glaze: Reduce to a syrup for a finishing touch on dishes.

These steps make it easy to incorporate balsamic vinegar into your cooking, adding depth and complexity to your meals.

How to Use Balsamic Vinegar in Cooking

Balsamic vinegar adds depth and complexity to various dishes. Use it in salad dressings for a sweet and tangy flavour. Add a splash to marinades for meats and vegetables to enhance their taste.

Deglaze pans with balsamic vinegar to create rich, flavorful sauces. It pairs well with roasted vegetables, adding a caramelised sweetness. Drizzle it over fresh fruits or desserts for a gourmet touch.

The versatility of balsamic vinegar makes it an essential ingredient in cooking, offering a unique flavour profile that enhances both savoury and sweet dishes.

How to Store Balsamic Vinegar

Proper storage of balsamic vinegar ensures it stays fresh and flavorful. Keep it in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight. A pantry or cupboard is ideal. Make sure the cap is tightly sealed to prevent air from entering.

There's no need to refrigerate it, as it can maintain its quality at room temperature. Avoid storing it near a heat source, which can degrade the flavour. Proper storage will help you enjoy its rich taste for years.

By following these simple steps, you can preserve the quality and depth of your balsamic vinegar.

What is the Best Balsamic Vinegar

The best balsamic vinegar often comes from Modena or Reggio Emilia in Italy. Look for labels like "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale" to ensure authenticity.

This traditional balsamic vinegar is aged for many years, developing a rich, complex flavour. Aged balsamic vinegar, sometimes labelled as "extra vecchio," offers an even deeper and sweeter taste.

When choosing balsamic vinegar, consider the ageing process and the reputation of the producer. High-quality balsamic vinegar can elevate your dishes, adding a depth of flavour that enhances both savoury and sweet recipes.

Types of Balsamic Vinegar


Defrutum Balsamic Vinegar IGP 4 yr Aged - 2 Crowns, 250ml

4-year aged

Defrutum 4-year aged balsamic vinegar IGP is a sweet, sharp vinegar that’s a great choice for everyday use.

Defrutum balsamic vinegar is made from the cooked grape must of Lambrusco grapes and a little wine vinegar. The grape must gives the balsamic its signature sweetness, while the wine vinegar adds sharpness and acidity.

This 4-year aged balsamic vinegar is an ideal choice for salad dressings, with its long-lasting acidity and clean mouth-feel. Mix 2 parts of extra virgin olive oil with 1 part balsamic vinegar, for a dressing that will liven up leafy green salads, tomato salads and green vegetables.


Giusti 2 Gold Medal Balsamic Vinegar 8 Year Aged, 250ml

8-year aged

Giusti’s 2 gold medal balsamic vinegar is a versatile balsamic, aged for a minimum of 8 years.

Giusti says "The silver medal vinegar is characterized by a rich perfume and an agreeable and rounded acidity, this is an aromatic Balsamic Vinegar enhancing the flavours of any dish thanks to its intensity. It can be used fresh or can be heated in cooking preparations."

The classic 2 gold medals balances sweet and sour flavours, with notes of black pepper, mature fruits and liquorice. This vinegar is aged in oak barrels, with the addition of aged balsamic vinegar extracted from centuries old casks.


Giusti 3 Gold Medal Balsamic Vinegar 12 Year Aged, 250ml

12-year aged

Giusti’s 3 gold medal balsamic vinegar is a sweeter balsamic than others you might have tried, aged for a minimum of 12 years.

The 3 gold medals vinegar is ideal for desserts. Made from sweet, sun dried grapes, the vinegar is rich with plum jam, red fruit and vanilla flavours and aromas. The 3 gold medal vinegar has a slightly thicker texture, and works well as a marinade.


Giusti 4 Gold Medal Balsamic Vinegar 15 Year Aged, 250ml

15-year aged

Giusti’s 4 gold medal balsamic vinegar is aged for 15 years, to develop the perfect balance of sharp, fruity flavour. The rich, dark condiment has incredible complex flavour – savour it over lovingly made green salads, or use as a finishing touch to perfectly ripe tomatoes.


Defrutum Balsamic Vinegar DOP "Extravecchio" - 25 years, 100ml

25-year aged

Defrutum “Extravecchio” 25-years aged balsamic vinegar PDO is the Rolls-Royce of vinegar for truly special occasions. Thick, rich and with just the right amount acidity, dot sparingly on canapes or even enjoy a small spoonful as a digestif.

The PDO designation of “Extravecchio” vinegar shows that it is made according to the strictest Modenese method of balsamic vinegar making. Unlike balsamics with IGP status, no wine vinegar is added while the vinegar matures – it is made purely from aged grape must.



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