The Best Grocery Store Balsamic Vinegar Is A Great Addition

The best grocery store Balsamic Vinegar is a great choice if you are new to it and you feel overwhelmed by the choices available to you in your grocery store.

best grocery store Balsamic Vinegar - Store Brands

Store Brands

I have only recently come to love balsamic vinegar and usually I just grab whatever is available in the grocery store, which turns out to be the least expensive option out there. I was curious if cost matters, so I chose three different manufacturers of balsamic vinegar and did a taste test. These three are all fairly inexpensive with the priciest going for around €9. I know there are much more expensive ones, but I wanted to offer my evaluation of the balsamic vinegar options available in a typical grocery store.

Which Are The Grocery Store Balsamic Vinegars That I Chose?

Again, these are off-the-shelf options at my local grocery store. They are all the same size, so the costs are comparable, and they are all IGP versions, and I will have more on that later. The balsamic vinegars are:

best grocery store balsamic vinegar - Ponti Glassa

Ponti Glassa

  • Ponti – This is the least expensive option, at €3.22 for a 250g plastic bottle. This is a glaze (glassa), which is a little thicker, especially when you keep it in the refrigerator. This version is a combination of a blend of fine Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP and cooked grape must. There is also an additional white wine vinegar added as well, which is not uncommon in the lower quality IGP versions. There are also artificial colors and thickeners added.

  • Consilia – This one is their Optima version and it is a level up in price at €6.90 for a 250g glass bottle. It does not have added colors, but like the others it is gluten free and it is also a mix of cooked grape must and wine vinegar. It is also an IGP designation.

  • Due Vittorie – This is the most expensive of the three at €8.99 for the same size 250g glass bottle. It is also an IGP designation, but with no additional artificial colors, preservatives or added sulfites. It is also an IGP, and as such it has a mix of cooked grape must and wine vinegar.

  • Cavedoni – This isn’t really part of the comparison because it is a flavored balsamic vinegar and since it was a gift I don’t know how much it costs. I just thought I would throw it in since we had it laying around.

How To Shop For The Best Grocery Store Balsamic Vinegar

Check The Age Of The Vinegar

This is important for the higher end of the balsamic vinegar market because the traditional balsamic vinegar is aged in wooden barrels for 25 years or longer. Like wine, it continues to get more delicious and complex the longer it matures in the barrel. Because casks share vinegar from multiple years, the ages are more of an average estimate than an exact number. The best balsamic vinegars grow and change every year so you have to respect the value of time.

For these IGP versions I tested, they don’t even indicate the age on the bottle because it is of lower quality and price so it isn’t very important.

best grocery store balsamic vinegar - Due Vittorie IGP

Due Vittorie IGP

Determine The Method Of Production

The traditional grapes used in making balsamic vinegar are sweet white grapes, like Lambrusco or Trebbiano. The grapes are pressed whole, called a must, which includes the stems, seeds and juice, and then it is cooked over a flame to kill the yeast until it is reduced by half. They are left to ferment naturally for up to three weeks.

Once they have fermented for the appropriate length of time, the grape must is moved to the first barrel, which is the first of at least five aging barrels. The barrels become smaller and smaller with each progression as it becomes more concentrated. Each barrel is made of a different wood, which imparts a different flavor into the vinegar. The longer a vinegar is aged, the more barrels it will have gone through and the more complex the taste will be.

best grocery store balsamic vinegar - Consilia Optima

Consilia Optima

What Is The Packaging And Volume

The key element of the packaging is the DOP or IGP designation, which indicates a level of quality of the balsamic vinegar. The Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP is bottled by a consortium in a distinctive, rectangular-bottomed, 100-milliliter bottle. The lower quality IGP, as I described above, can come in a variety of bottle shapes and materials. Check the label to find out if it includes artificial coloring, thickeners or other unpleasant additives.

What Is The Country Of Origin

Of course you only want balsamic vinegar that comes from Italy. Unlike olive oil, which has decent quality all around the mediterranean sea, there is only one place from which to buy balsamic vinegar, and that is Italy. From this, there are three protected types of balsamic vinegar:

  • Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP

  • Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia DOP

  • Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP

What Were The Results Of The Comparison?

One of the reasons that I wanted to do this test is because I liked the first bottle of balsamic vinegar that I bought, which was also the cheapest bottle available. I was curious if I have cheap tastes or if there is much more to learn about these delicious vinegars and it became obvious that there is a lot more for me to learn.

best grocery store balsamic vinegar - Apple Flavors

Vinegar and Apple

I was consistent in the testing because I used the same batch of fresh (and delicious) strawberries and drizzled each of the vinegars on top of some slices.

What surprised me was that my favorite was not the most expensive as the Consilia rose above the rest for me. Here is more that I found:

  • Ponti – This really is cheap, and I need to stop buying it. The artificial flavors and thickeners really disappointed me, so I think this will be my last plastic bottle of vinegar. I found it thick and sweet, and this was my basis of comparison for the others.

  • Due Vittorie – Even though this is the most expensive of the three, I didn’t find it very special. It was thicker, but with less flavor. It was not tangy or acidic, unlike the Consilia, and it reminded me of the Ponti, but almost 3x as expensive.

  • Consilia – This was my favorite, but only by a little. It was thinner, which wasn’t surprising since it wasn’t loaded with thickener, but also had a smokey flavor and was more acidic/tangy than the other three. It tasted great on the strawberries.

  • Cavedoni – As I mentioned, this isn’t really part of the comparison because it is a flavored balsamic vinegar, but it did have an interesting and very strong apple flavor, which paired well with the strawberries. It had a medium thickness and was pretty sweet. I will use the rest of the bottle, but I need more experience with the authentic balsamic vinegars before I journey off to the flavored varieties.

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