Published March 1, 2007.
We went in search of the ultimate high-end drizzling vinegar and discovered you don't have to pay high-end prices.
When it comes to drizzling vinegar over berries or a piece of grilled fish, do you have to shell out hundreds of dollars for a traditional vinegar aged for at least 12 years? To find out, we conducted a special tasting that included a traditional balsamic approved and bottled by the Reggio Emilia vinegar consortium; the winner of our supermarket tasting (see our related tasting); and two high-priced commercial balsamics—the kind sold in gourmet stores.
The not-so-surprising news? The entry from the consortium (priced at $180 for 3 ounces), topped nearly everyone's list, with tasters waxing poetic about its "pomegranate," "caramel," "smoky" flavor that "coats the tongue" and tastes "amazing." In such rich company, our supermarket winner couldn't compete.
But the big surprise was the strong performance of the high-priced commercial vinegars we purchased at gourmet stores. They were nearly as good as the 25-year-old vinegar and cost just $3 to $4 per ounce. Tasters praised the first contestant ($27 for 8.5 ounces) as "fruity, raisiny, and complex," with notes of "wood, smoke, flowers," and described the second bottle ($35 for 8.5 ounces) as "floral" and "aromatic." Made with aged grape must and, in the case of the first brand, good wine vinegar, these gourmet commercial balsamics are reasonably priced options if you want to drizzle balsamic vinegar over food and don't want to pay a fortune.