Kitchn Love Letters

This Balsamic Vinegar Is the Top Seller in Europe — And I Totally Get Why

published Mar 30, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Europeans are particular about the integrity of some of their most prized food items, as they should be: Specialty makers put a lot of time and effort into making sure that conditions, processes, and ingredients are just right. Terroir, for example, often gets special consideration — especially when it comes to balsamic vinegar. This attention to detail was made abundantly clear when I got my hands on the number-one balsamic in Germany, the Netherlands, and Australia: Mazzetti Gold Label Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.

Credit: Su-Jit Lin

I was thrilled when this particular line reached me in the United States this past winter. It’s all-around gorgeous. Yes, for its wine-like packaging, its distinctly European-feeling seals, its vintage-y font, and its protective dark glass bottle with a monogrammed “M” rising proudly just below the neck. And also, perhaps most importantly, for its contents inside.

Buy: Mazzetti Gold Label Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, $6.89 for 8.45 ounces at Instacart

The magic is in the grapes. For nearly 80 years, the Mazzetti family has been using grape must from Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes local to Reggio Emilia — as required to earn the right to call itself Aceto Balsamico di Modena I.G.P. There’s no added sugar or food coloring. In this bottle are only two things: the mosto cotto (grape must syrup) and the wine vinegar that brings it down to an accessible price point while differentiating it from the other two protected types of balsamic vinegar (balsamic vinegar of Modena IGP and the Traditional of Reggio Emilia DOP). And before it’s bottled up and dressed in reverence, it’s aged for three years in oak barrels to mature into a complex, layered condiment with plummy notes, woody accents, and a velvety texture that’s so plush, you could simply sip it.

The company recommends “splashing it on salad, dipping into with bread, and drizzling onto grilled meats and vegetables,” and I can confidently say that it’s been good advice. It goes well with anything that you want to add a lively, instant pop to. Same goes for the brand’s new Chef’s Reduction, which is made by gently cooking their Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and adding in more grape must (for sweetness) and a bit of cornstarch (for thickening). This thick glaze saves you the trouble of doing your own reduction when you want a super-easy zhuzh on caprese salad, bruschetta, popcorn, or even a sesame bagel with herb cream cheese (trust me).

But back to the vinegar. Because it’s precious and a bit pricey, you may be reluctant to reach for it. Don’t be. The medium body of the vinegar gives you a whole-mouth feel that lets each drop go a longer way than the cheaper stuff. The finish is sweet, rich, and smooth; you won’t get that out of younger balsamics that are cut with other ingredients. This offers a slow ramp-up to sweetness as a finishing note, allowing you to taste the other flavors as you build up to it. In short, it’s not just gorgeous — it’s delicious.

Do you have a favorite brand of balsamic vinegar? Tell us in the comments below.