/ Food & Drink

Balsamic vinegar – how much would you splash out on a bottle?

Do you think it’s worth paying premium prices for balsamic vinegar? Or do those cheaper supermarket options hit the spot? Our taste test reveals how much you’ll need to spend for a good balsamic…

Have you ever tried a 100-year-old balsamic vinegar? One of our experts brought some in when we carried out our balsamic vinegar taste test, and I’m here to tell you that it’s something a bit special.

But although I firmly believe that a drizzle of the black stuff can transform a suburban salad, would I pay more than I’d pay for a decent bottle of wine for our top-scoring Best Buy balsamic? I’m not so sure.

Balsamic vinegars taste tested

We hid the identities of the 21 balsamic vinegars on test so that our four expert tasters didn’t know which ones they were tasting, and they weren’t surprised when – during the big ‘reveal’ at the end – the cheaper vinegars from Asda, M&S, Tesco and Waitrose all scored lower than their pricier supermarket alternatives. That’s a little different to how cheap olive oils performed in our taste test last year.

Our experts were looking for a vinegar with a balanced level of acidity and natural sweetness, as well as an aroma and complex flavours from the barrels it was aged in.

But they were impressed by the price of the runner-up: the ‘gluggable’ Co-operative Truly Irresistible Balsamic Vinegar scored 78% and costs £5.24, under half the price of the top-scorer ‘dense, rich’ Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference 4 Leaf at £11.99.

And a surprise bargain was from the cheeky chappy himself: Jamie Oliver’s Balsamic costs only £2.59 and was ‘worth a look’ with its thick, intensely coloured, unusual flavour, scoring 66%.

Now, you could say that since you’d hardly drink a bottle of balsamic in a night, it’s likely worth spending a bit more for something that will last. Perhaps not the £200 for 100ml you’d pay for the 100-year-old vinegar (after all, as our expert said, this one is best experienced when kissed off the hand of your dearest friend), but maybe you’d splash out more than a tenner?

How much would you spend on a 100ml bottle of balsamic vinegar?

I don't buy balsamic vinegar (31%, 214 Votes)

Less than £2 (24%, 164 Votes)

£2 - £3.99 (24%, 160 Votes)

£4 - £5.99 (11%, 72 Votes)

£7 - £9.99 (4%, 28 Votes)

More than £14 (3%, 22 Votes)

£10 - £13.99 (3%, 20 Votes)

Total Voters: 690

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So where are the details of the taste tests on the 21 different balsamic vinegars?

All I can find is the news item discussing the best buys…

Hello both, here are the test results as featured in the magazine (Which? members only I’m afraid): http://www.which.co.uk/documents/pdf/p66-67_balsamicvinegar-289200.pdf

Pete Collyer says:
27 June 2012

I would also like to see the test results

Balsamic vinegars can fetch serious money – an Extra Vecchio 25yr+ costing £75-100!

I’ve found a good little range at Wychwood Deli – starting at £5, through to a very expensive one – some great olive oils too…

Flavio Cereda says:
29 June 2012

I was a little perplexed reading your piece. None of the vinegars featured are, of course, proper balsamic vinegars but are all blends with significant quantities of caramel added. Balsamic vinegar from Modena is graded by label (bronze/silver/gold) to indicate age and is very different from what UK supermarkets sell (much richer, much deeper taste and thicker). If you pay under £15 for 250ml you are buying something which may appeal but is most definitely not balsamic vinegar as would be sold in Modena. The real thing is fabulous with ice cream and even strawberries but I would not dream of buying one for £2.59. I am really quite surprised by such an ill-informed piece. Call these caramel dressings please, not balsamic vinegar.

Thanks for the link Patrick – although, as it happens, the hardcopy magazine arrived yesterday with the test results inside 🙂

Sorry for the delay! Glad you can see it in print though!

Jenny Norton says:
3 July 2012

Was disappointed that you didn’t taste test Morrison’s THE BEST Balsamic Vineger of Modena. It has everything that you recommended on the label. For 250mls it’s either just over or just under £5 a bottle and is thick and delicious on Strawberrys, Scallops or with Olive oil and bread. Much nicer than some of the other watery Balsamic vinegars that we have tried. I think it’s one of Morrisons best kept secrets.

Jenny Norton says:
3 July 2012

Have commented as above on Balsamic Vinegar

ian tanner says:
6 July 2012

Coming in from an opposite direction to Flavio Cerada!!!!
I once complimented an Italian restaurarant upon the quality of the balsamic vinegar in a balsamic below olive oil bread dip. They confessed to sweetening and reducing cheap(est) balsamic! It’s worked for me ever since. I guess at quantities but try 25% sugar and a 33% reduction. Beware to assess the viscosity cold as it’s rather too easy to make balsamic toffee!