Balsamic vinegars have lately reached a level of popularity that even ten years ago was unthinkable. In particular, aged traditional balsamic vinegars used to be a fancy condiment found only in a star cook’s kitchen. Times have changed and now different balsamic vinegars are available much more broadly. And have made their ways onto the tables of foodies everywhere. The Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Extra Vecchio from The Balsamic Guy reviewed here is a very special traditonal balsamic vinegar that has been carefully aged for at least 25 years in Modena, Italy.
A little bit of background on the brand first: The Balsamic Guy. Most balsamic vinegars are sold directly by their producers. These vinegar producers, which are called acetaia, tend to be smaller companies in Modena and Reggio Emilia, cities in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. The Balsamic Guy instead is an LLC headquartered in California. They state on their website that they are originally from Modena and work directly with their producers and the Consortium of Producers of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar in Modena.
Evaluation of the Product Features
As discussed at length in the buyer’s guide for balsamic vinegar, there are five factors to look at when evaluating balsamic vinegar: name & origin, packaging, ingredients, price, and intended usage.
The Name and Origin
This product is an Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena Extra Vecchio, a traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy, that is extra vecchio (which in Italian and means “extra old”). While this wouldn’t be very appealing for many products, for balsamic vinegar it is a distinction. It means that the balsamic vinegar has been aged for at least 25 years.
Since Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena is a protected name, any product with this seal was entirely produced in Modena with local grape varieties. As you can see on the product picture, this balsamic vinegar bears the DOP/PDO seal (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, i.e. Protected Designation of Origin). This seal is a certification by the European Union, which guarantees not only all of the above, but also that a consortium conducted repeated monitoring and oversight throughout the whole production process. This consortium was established especially to protect the name and quality of all traditional balsamic vinegars from 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 the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Extra Vecchio from The Balsamic Guy.
Real Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena contains only one ingredient: grape must (pressed, unfermented grapes). This can be listed in the ingredients as aged grape must or Mosto d’Uva. Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Extra Vecchio from The Balsamic Guy lists only one ingredient, “Cooked Grape Must”. This means it does not contain wine vinegar or additives like caramel food coloring or thickening agents to make the product appear older than it is.
Traditional balsamic vinegar is the gold standard in terms of balsamic vinegars. The ones that are aged for at least 25 years rather than “only” 12 even more so. It is therefore no surprise that the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Extra Vecchio from The Balsamic Guy comes with a hefty price tag. These champagnes among sparking wines usually cost between $100 and $200. This one falls within that range and seems to land on the more expensive side. It does come with a pourer, a book with additional information and recipes, and is packaged in a gift box. That might explain some of the difference.
The Intended Usage
As this is a traditional balsamic vinegar that has been aged for at least 25 years, it is pretty sweet and very thick. It is meant to be drizzled on top of foods in very small amounts (i.e., a few drops at a time). You can use it to add finishing touches to enhance your plated dishes. Or you can bring the bottle straight to the table and ask your guests to drizzle it over their dessert. Fresh fruits like strawberries pair very well with aged balsamic vinegar. Aged cheeses like Parmesan do as well if you fancy finishing your meal with cheese instead of sweets.
My Italian Inspiration Rating
With this particular balsamic vinegar you are probably wondering if it’s worth the hefty price tag. If you are looking for a decent balsamic vinegar to freely pour over your salad or add it to a sauce you are cooking, then the answer is definitely no. If you are looking for an aged balsamic vinegar, that is thick and sweet, that you want to pull out of your cabinet for special occasions to maybe drizzle over strawberries or chunks of aged Parmesan, you can’t go wrong. The only drawback is that the actual acetaia, the vinegar producer, isn’t listed on the label. However, because of the consortium’s strict supervision, its seal guarantees a high level of quality regardless of the single producer. I can’t imagine you’ll be disappointed with the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Extra Vecchio from The Balsamic Guy.
Comparison to Similar Products
How does the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Extra Vecchio from The Balsamic Guy 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.