This is from Cook's Illustrated. Their overall opinion: the two regional genuine Italian balsamic vinegars from the provinces of Emilia-Romagna: Modena and Reggio Emilia, are unbeatable, sold in 3-ounce bottles (an inverted tulip shape for Reggio Emilia; a ball with a neck for Modena). They are also horribly expensive at $60 per oz and really aren't needed under almost any application unless using them uncooked and stand-alone. Supermarket-available choices are acceptable for almost all needs.
|Cavalli Gold Seal Extra Vecchio Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale de Reggio Emilia
Not so surprisingly, the 25-year aging period of this balsamic vinegar paid off. Although you won't find it in supermarkets, tasters waxed poetic about its "pomegranate," "caramel," "smoky" flavor that "coats the tongue" and tastes "amazing."
|$60 per ounce|
|Lucini Gran Riserva Balsamico
This was the sweetest and thickest of the vinegars we tasted. Plain, it had a "sweet, nuanced flavor" with a "nice balance" of tart and sweet. In glaze, it was "nice . . . smooth, with no burn," offering "great complexity and fig flavor," with "a little zing." In vinaigrette, it was "very good—to the last drop."
|$14.00 for 8.5 ounces|
|Monari Federzoni Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
A true standout in the vinaigrette, where its acidity lent brightness, winning raves as "extremely smooth and tangy." In glaze, it had "full-bodied" taste. Tasted plain, however, it lost points for harshness that "burns the back of your throat."
|$3.39 for 16.9 ounces|
|Ortalli Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
Tasters liked this vinegar’s fruity flavor with "musky," "woody," "fermented" tones. In vinaigrette, it was a little too mellow, with tasters calling it "bland" and even a bit "boring." As a glaze, however, it was "very palatable," with "just the right amount of sweetness."
|$4.69 for 16.9 ounces|