Most Balsamic Vinegar in the USA is FAKE, even the expensive ones!!

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Most Balsamic Vinegar in the USA is FAKE, even the expensive ones!!
Balsamic vinegar of Modeno — the ones we find at most grocery stores— is “commercial grade” balsamic vinegar. In other words, it is fake balsamic vinegar. In most cases, the balsamic vinegar we get is just grape juice with just a little bit of vinegar, artificial coloring and caramel.
So, what is real balsamic vinegar?

Real balsamic vinegar is a strictly regulated European product.  Balsamic Vinegar is produced from white grapes (typically, Trebbiano grapes) and must be aged at least 12 years. True balsamic vinegar will have a thick pouring consistency. Real balsamic vinegar  is not made from grape juice that is fermented into wine, like conventional wine vinegar. Instead, it is made from unfermented grape must (freshly-pressed juice), which is concentrated by simmering for hours until it becomes a thick, caramelized syrup. (Thus, authentic balsamic is not a wine vinegar.) Unfortunately, with weak American labeling laws, it is really hard to tell what you are getting.  The words “of modena” or “di modena” really mean the modern, fake process of mixing wine vinegar with grape must. If you only pay $5 an ounce, your balsamic vinegar is probably fake.

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena must be produced within the town of Modena  in Italy.   It was granted a protected designation of origin (PDO) by the European Union in 2000 (Council Regulation (EC) No 813/2000, April 17, 2000).





“Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena” is made from white and sugary Trebbiano grapes grown on the hills around Modena. Custom demands that the grapes are harvested as late as possible to take advantage of the warmth that nature provides there. This traditional vinegar is made from the cooked grape “must” and is aged for a minimum of 12 years or 25 years (denoted by the label claim “extra aged”).  The aging process occurs inside barrels of successively smaller size of different kinds of wood, such as juniper, chesnut, mulberry and oak.

Balsamic vinegars produced domestically in the United States are made from wine vinegar blended with grape juice or grape “must”.  Caramel may be added in small levels for color stability. Some juice may be subjected to an alcoholic and subsequent acetous fermentation and some to concentration or heating. In the United States, products are also allowed to be labeled as “Balsamic Vinegar” based on the U.S. labeling laws.

How To Tell if Balsamic Vinegar Is Real

Unfortunately, most people have never had real balsamic vinegar as it is very expensive,  going for over $100 for 3oz. However, you can still use buy high quality balsamic vinegar in America.

It’s really simple. Look at the list of ingredients on the balsamic bottle label. The key is to look at the ingredients list for the words “grape must”, “aged grape must,” or “Mosto d’Uva.” This is vinegar that is made 100% from grape must without any other ingredients added and follows a similar method of production as the traditional balsamic.  DO not buy balsamic vinegar with added caramel coloring and sugar.  These are the lowest quality industrially produced balsamic vinegars.


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