The highest art of vinegar production in Italy is called “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale” -, so you would think that all Balsamic vinegars would be of the highest quality, unfortunately this is not the case. You can pay anywhere from $3 per pint to $50 per ounce, so it becomes an art to choose a fine quality Balsamic vinegar at a reasonable price.
Balsamic vinegars are made from the must (or juice) of crushed grapes with the primary variety being Trebbiano grape. The must is immediately cooked over an open fire to kill any bacteria – sugar content will vary from producer to producer but it must be between 28 – 33 per cent for it to age properly. After cooking, the must is allowed to rest until the following year when it is then added to the “botte Madre” – the mother barrel where the heat of the summer allows it to convert into alcohol and vinegar.
The second and longest phase (which can take up to 12 years), the liquid is transferred from a series of wood barrels large to smaller and every size a different type of wood. At the end of 12 years, the vinegar is aged and mellow.