The balsamic vinegar you have in your pantry is probably just red wine vinegar hiding under a mask of sweetener and food coloring. But, hold onto your hats, we’re still going to tell you to buy a fake--here’s why.
True balsamic vinegar, like champagne, is subject to specific rules and regulations for production--including being limited to certain regions for production. It’s made from pressed grapes instead of fermented alcohol, unlike other vinegars, and is aged like wine in barrels. Unfortunately for most of us consumers, all that TLC means a real bottle of balsamic can set you back several hundred dollars. Seriously!
If you don’t have that amount of cash to drop on a condiment, join the club. Luckily, there are balsamic vinegars at the supermarket that, though technically fake, are made from the same ingredient as true balsamic. They’re just made outside the specific regions--Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy--where real balsamic is produced and aged for a shorter amount of time. All you need to remember is one simple trick: The ingredients label should only list one thing, which can be called “grape must," “aged grape must,” or “Mosto d'Uva.” And if you’re going to splurge on the real deal, make sure the bottle you’re buying has a seal to certify its origin.
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