The Basics on Balsamic
The best balsamic vinegar, and some would argue the only true balsamic, comes from the northern region of Italy. Unfermented white grape juice is boiled down to produce the must, which is further reduced and then aged in wooden barrels. The result is a complex vinegar with a sweet and fruity taste, dark color, and syrupy consistency. What I’ve just described is very different from what you’ll find in the average supermarket.
Most supermarkets carry only commercial-grade balsamic, which is mixed with red wine vinegar. It’s not as sweet, lighter in color, and thinner. Unfortunately, finding the real deal may not be easy for you. If you’re at the store, check the ingredients for the percentage of must; only the true balsamic is 100 percent must, with no vinegar. But driving all over town in search of good vinegar might not be the best approach. Try ordering from sites such as Olive Nation that offer a variety of vinegars aged up to 50 years and costing up to $200!
I am not saying you need to spend that much on a good balsamic—you don’t—but splurging just a little can be worth it. The rich complexity of the vinegar makes it perfect for drizzling on ripe strawberries or soy ice cream, and it can even be sipped on its own.