Finding out how much real Balsamic Vinegar cost is a key step in making an informed purchase.
How much does balsamic vinegar cost? This value is represented by the culture, the history of the provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia and the reputation it has all over the world.
The tradition of producing Balsamic Vinegar in fairly restricted areas such as the provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia is very ancient; so much so that it was mentioned in 1508 at the court of the Duke of Modena, Alfonso I d’Este, husband of Lucrezia Borgia.
There is a lot of historical information about Traditional Balsamic Vinegar DOP. The term ‘balsamic’ next to the word vinegar appeared for the first time in 1700. These testimonies confirm that in the province of Modena, for a very long time, a particular type of vinegar has been produced with a type of manufacturing and ageing characteristics that have remained almost unchanged up to the present day. The real Balsamic Vinegar, therefore, is only that produced in the provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia.
Now, let’s try to understand why Balsamic Vinegar is so expensive and why prices are not all the same.
The first factor that determines the price of Balsamic Vinegar are the ingredients used for the production of the two best known and marketed categories of Balsamic Vinegar, Traditional Balsamic Vinegar DOP and Modena PGI.
The grapes used for the must that will become the Traditional DOP Balsamic Vinegar (Protected Designation of Origin) are those of Lambrusco, Ancellotta, Trebbiano, Sauvignon, Sgavetta, Berzemino, Occhio di Gatta and grapes from the vineyards registered as DOC in the province of Modena and Reggio Emilia.
The grapes used for the must from which the PGI Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Protected Geographical Indication) will derive are those of Lambruschi, Sangiovese, Trebbiani, Albana, Ancellotta, Fortana and Montuni.
The second important factor is ageing. For what concerns Traditional DOP Balsamic Vinegar, it must be aged for a minimum of 12 years up to must be at least of 12 years up to “extra old”, with a minimum ageing of 25 years; while for the PGI (Indication of Protected Origin) we have a minimum ageing of 60 days. In addition, to bear the term “aged”, PGI Balsamic Vinegar of Modena must be aged for a minimum of 3 years. These, which are produced on a large scale, are on the market at lower prices; this is very confusing in terms of prices, because here less strict specifications than those for DOP products are applied.
Refinement and ageing operations take place in barrels of different sizes and types of wood sourced from the areas such as oak, chestnut, cherry, juniper, mulberry, ash and locust. This is a little, albeit important evidence of the meticulousness that lies behind a more than a century-old tradition of Balsamic Vinegar production. That said, how much does real balsamic vinegar cost?
How much does Traditional DOP Balsamic Vinegar cost?
From 60 to 100 euros
In this range we find the DOP di Modena Affinati (12 years of ageing) and the DOP Reggio Lobster Stamp (the stamp is divided into Lobster, Silver and Gold, based on the score received during the sensory examination by a team of master taste testers) also aged 12 years. If you find one of these products at lower prices (except during a promotional phase) we recommend that you pay more attention to what you buy and, above all, always read the label.
After various processing, ageing and bottling operations, the Traditional DOP Balsamic Vinegar will have a dark but shiny brown colour, a smooth syrupiness and a fragrant characteristic, persistent and pleasantly balanced acidity.
The characteristic flavour of balsamic vinegar, as it has been consecrated through the centuries by tradition in unchanging continuity, will be sweet and sour, well balanced with appreciable acidity and a slight tangent of aromaticity obtained by the influence of the various woods used in the vinegar jars.
Given its precious value, it is a suitable product for meditation or just to be tasted. Particularly suitable to accompany Parmigiano Reggiano, strawberries or ice cream.
From 100 to 150 euros
From 100 to 150 euros you can find the DOP di Modena Extra vecchio (aged 24 years) and the DOP Reggio Silver Stamp (Aged for at least 12 years with quality scores higher than the lobster stamp).
The extra old title or the silver stamp is obtained starting from a cooked grape must, matured by slow acetification and by progressive concentration through a very long ageing process in series of wooden barrels of different types, without any addition of aromatic substances. Only with these specific characteristics can the quality and originality of Traditional DOP Balsamic Vinegar be determined.
These products have organoleptic characteristics which are similar to those described above; with a higher degree of scent, characteristics, and a complex, penetrating, evident but pleasant and aromatic acidity. With a traditional and inimitable sweet and well-balanced sour and generously round taste, savoury and with velvety nuances in accordance with its olfactory characteristics. Ideal to accompany boiled meats or fish dishes, perfect with fois gras, as well as spicy or mature cheeses.
Over 150 euros
Within this price range you can find the DOP Modena Extra old limited editions (personalized boxes, editions linked to anniversaries, longer ageing processes and particularly good vintages) and the DOP Reggio Golden Stamp (aged for at least 12 years with quality scores higher than the silver stamp).
Aged at least 25 years, it is even richer in aroma and flavors, which only the slow passage of time can provide. Its wide bouquet comes from many years of ageing in barrels, which are rich in history and scents.
The unique and unrepeatable taste of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia – Golden Stamp is always to be combined raw, with sweet and salty food or else, in raw or cooked fruit, on ice cream, in sweets or alone on meditation products.
Lovers of savory flavors would appreciate it on the noblest, tastiest and spiciest cheeses; admirers of sweetness have infinite delights from its pairings with custard, chocolate cakes, ice cream, berries and its wise use as a supreme ingredient for filling complex leavening cakes such as panettone.
How much is Modena IGP Balsamic Vinegar?
Up to 20 euros
In the 20-euro price range, you can find unaged PGIs of Modena and some selections of medium-low quality aged products (this often concerns products composed of more wine vinegar than grape must and high quantity of caramel e150d).
PGI Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is obtained from partially fermented and/or cooked and/or concentrated grape must. Wine vinegar is added to the must, at least 10%, and a vinegar of minimum 10 years old.
After 60 days of being aged in wooden vats, Balsamic Vinegar of Modena can undergo a further period of ageing. If the latter is more than 3 years old, it can be defined “aged“, which is the only possible additional wording on the label of a PGI Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.
Above 20 euros
In this range you will be able to find aged and high quality PGI of Modena (the main ingredient is cooked grape must, which is superior to wine vinegar, the latter is used to cut and lengthen the vinegar). Aged PGI Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is handmade; it is produced using cooked grape must and wine vinegar as raw materials. It is left to mature for a certified period of more than 3 years in oak barrels, in order to allow it to reach an optimal refinement. If you find one of these products at lower prices (excluding promotional products) we recommend that you pay more attention to its origin and processing; but above all, always read the label.
The aged PGI Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is a high-quality product and it is very much appreciated thanks to the perfect combination of cooked grape must and wine vinegar deriving from selected grapes of the Italian territory and processed in the provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia. The high percentage of cooked must gives it a sweet taste that prevails over acidic notes, making it a product of considerable density; excellent for the most refined dishes.
In conclusion, after reviews of the excellences of the lands of Emilia-Romagna, we now understand how a different production, a different ageing process and the different use of raw materials give rise to products of excellence which are appreciated all over the world. Do you want to discover the differences between Traditional DOP Balsamic Vinegar and Modena IGP?
Because of the fact that Balsamic Vinegar is a product of excellence in our land, it must respect and maintain certain prices in order to continue to be a valuable product and to be able to keep the tradition and the method of more than a hundred years of processing alive. This price analysis is based on a standard market condition, so no offers or promotions.
Although some PGI products are really high quality, DOP products are certainly at the top of this sector: just think of the years of ageing that differentiate between the two categories. Last bit of advice for purchasing: buying outside of these price ranges is possible, the question is not how much does real balsamic vinegar cost, the important thing is to know what you are buying and above all, always read the description on the label.