The balsamic consortium controls the production of the best authentic traditional balsamic vinegar very tightly. Other balsamics that fall outside the tradizionale category are less supervised, and there are many types of balsamic vinegar products to discover.
This is the closest you can get to a traditional balsamic, without the actual designation. Condimento balsamico is true balsamic that fails to meet the tradizionale standards by a small margin, either because it is aged less than the requisite 12 years, or perhaps it’s made outside Modena and Reggio Emilia, or it was not made under consortium supervision. Most of the time they’re superior balsamics, with a great depth of flavor, nice texture but perhaps not as thick and rich as the greater aged traditional balsamics. You can recognize a true condimento balsamic by its I.G.P label or Consorzio di Balsamico Condimento seal. Use it in the same way you would use traditional balsamic vinegar.
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Aceto Balsamico di Modena I.G.P.:
In 2009 the EU introduced the IGP label, “Indicazione Geografica Protetta”. The I.G.P. guarantees that these balsamic vinegars were made from the traditional Modena grape varieties - Albana, Ancellotta, Fortana, Lambrusco, Montuni, Sangiovese, and Trebbiano. The caveat: the grapes can be grown anywhere in the world, like Argentina or the US. These vinegars can contain a combination grape must and wine vinegar, and have an acidity of at least 6%. They’re not fermented, and often the aging, if there is any, is short. It’s a sweeter condiment, more vinegar-like in taste.
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A balsamic glaze is a condiment made with IFP balsamic vinegar, with the addition of guar and xanthan gum to add thickness and density. This results in a texture that imitates an aged balsamic, syrupy and viscous. The flavor is much like an IGP, but the texture affords other uses, like finishing dishes and garnishing.
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The advent of molecular gastronomy introduced the concept of spherification everywhere, and it was bound to leave its mark in the balsamic vinegar world. IGP vinegar of Modena is encapsulated into ‘pearls’ with a gelling agent like agar. Great for garnishing and for serving up balsamic in a new and interesting way.
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Made from slow-cooked grape must, Saba is made using the same method used for producing balsamic vinegar, only the process stops once the must is reduced by 1/3. This caramelized the sugars and concentrates de flavors, and it is then bottled immediately afterwards.
White Balsamic Vinegar:
Made from white Trebbiano grapes, white balsamic is cooked slowly so there is no darkening through caramelization. It’s typically aged little, if at all, and the flavor is sweet and light. It’s a great product to add a balsamic flavor without darkening a preparation.
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