Most people only know balsamic vinegar as an ingredient for salad dressings. Fancy chefs used to be the only ones that were familiar with its more sophisticated cousin, the aged balsamic vinegar. The holy grail of balsamic vinegars to this day is the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. Under strict supervision from the consortium, it is produced and aged for at least 12 years or at least 25 years following very specific rules. And foodies everywhere have discovered this traditional aged balsamic as another tool in their toolboxes, or cupboards more likely. The Manicardi Extravecchio DOP Balsamic Vinegar reviewed here is a very special traditional balsamic vinegar, produced and aged for at least 25 years in Modena, Italy.
The brand under which this balsamic vinegar is sold is Manicardi. This wine and vinegar producer is located in Castelvetro, a beautiful little town in the province of Modena. In the product description Manicardi states that the Manicardi Extravecchio DOP Balsamic Vinegar is produced for them by the Fattoria Estense. It turns out that the Fattoria Estense is actually a brand owned by Alico s.r.l.. And Alico is a company located in Bomporto, another town in the province of Modena. Like most traditional balsamic vinegar producers Alico is a member of the Consortium for the protection of balsamic vinegar. This consortium produces 98% of all of the certified Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.
Evaluation of the Product Features
There are five important factors to look at when evaluating balsamic vinegar: name & origin, packaging, ingredients, price, and intended usage. Details for each factor are discussed at length in the buyer’s guide for balsamic vinegar.
The Name and Origin
Manicardi states that this balsamic vinegar is an “Extravecchio DOP Balsamic Vinegar“. Extra Vecchio is Italian and literally means “extra old”. Since DOP Balsmic Vinegar is only sold as either having been aged for at least 12 years or for at least 25 years, this means it has been aged for at least 25 years. DOP is the abbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Protetta, which can be translated as Protected Designation of Origin(PDO). It is a protected name that can be used only for products that have followed a very specific, traditional production process in Modena, Italy. Before botteling, these types of vinegar have been checked by a consortium and deemed worthy of the name Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena (i.e., Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena).
The real Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is only sold in 100ml bulb-shaped bottles. As the product picture below shows, this is very much the case with this product.
The seal to the right can be seen also on the bottle above. This seal is a certification by the European Union, which guarantees a certain type of grape, limited ingredients, a specific production process, and that a consortium conducted repeated monitoring and oversight throughout the whole production process.
Grape must (pressed, unfermented grapes) is the only ingredient a real Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is allowed to contain. Other ways of listing this are, for example, its Italian equivalent Mosto d’Uva or “aged grape must”. The Manicardi Extravecchio DOP Balsamic Vinegar lists only one ingredient, “mosto d’uva cotto” aka cooked grape must. This means no additives like caramel food coloring or thickening agents were used and no wine vinegar was added during production.
Traditional balsamic vinegar is the gold standard in terms of balsamic vinegars. The ones that are aged at least 25 years rather than “only” 12 even more so. So, from the get-go, you know this isn’t going to be a cheap purchase. However, it is much cheaper than most of its competitors, a very welcome surprise.
The Intended Usage
Like all 25-year traditional balsamic vinegars, this one is sweet and dense. Small amounts go a long way. Rather than cooking with it, it is meant to bring finesse to finished plates. Present it straight out of the bottle at the dinner table and instruct your guests on its use. One way to enjoy it is drizzled over aged chunks of parmesan as an appetizer or on fruit or ice cream as a dessert. Another suggestion from the producer is to drizzle it over a plate of risotto or even whole roasts. Just don’t forget that you don’t need very much or it can become overpowering.
My Italian Inspiration Rating
The Manicardi Extravecchio DOP Balsamic Vinegar is a great deal compared to its competitors. It is much more affordable than traditional balsamic vinegars of the same age. One drawback is that the actual acetaia, the vinegar producer, isn’t on the label. However, given Manicardi‘s excellent reputation and Alico‘s membership with the consortium, a high level of quality is all but guaranteed. I’m sure you’ll find a good use for the savings by going with this brand over others…. May I suggest some aged parmesan maybe? It’ll go great with your aged traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena.
Comparison to Similar Products
How does the Manicardi Extravecchio DOP Balsamic Vinegar compare to similar products? Take a look at this comparison chart and find out how other traditional balsamic vinegars that have all been aged for at least 25 years as well stack up.