Bargain balsamic vinegar revealedWhich? experts pick top buys from £2.59 to £11.99

20 June 2012

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Which? experts put 21 balsamic vinegars to the test and found three great-tasting options priced from £2.59 to £11.99. 

Balsamic bests 

When it comes to buying balsamic vinegar, you tend to get what you pay for. However, our expert taste test of 21 vinegars has revealed that there are great bargains to be had.

The Co-operative’s Truly Irresistible (78%) has been awarded Best Buy status, with our experts enjoying its versatility, ‘fruity’ taste and its natural sweetness. At £5.24 for 250ml, it's less than half the price of the other Best Buy, Sainsbury's Taste the Difference (84%), which costs £11.99 for the same sized bottle. 

This ‘well aged’, thicker and ‘elegant’ vinegar came top in our test. Our experts loved its strong aromas and caramel sweetness – recommending it for drizzling over parmesan or salads.

Balsamic vinegar bargains

If you’re looking for a bargain, Jamie Oliver’s Balsamic scored well (66%) for its great value and unusual ‘sherry-like flavour’. Versatile and cheap at £2.59, this label’s worth a look, according to our experts.

A good balsamic vinegar will have a balance of acidity and natural sweetness. The vinegar should also have an aroma and complex flavours of wood – from the barrels it’s aged in.

Cheaper choices

Our experts felt that cheaper supermarket vinegars are still not quite up to scratch, with many marked down for being too thin or having high levels of acidity. The experts agreed, however, that you can get away with thinner vinegar when mixing it with oil and honey to make a dressing. You should also be able to bubble off any acidity when cooking.

Cheaper Sainsbury's, Asda, M&S, Tesco and Waitrose-branded vinegars all scored lower than their pricer alternatives in our blind taste test, where experts rated the vinegars on three key factors – aroma, balance and taste. 

Our experts were: Charles Carey – oil and vinegar importer, The Oil Merchant; Jonathan Miller – food buyer, Fortnum & Mason; Mark Lewis – project manager and agent, Mark Lewis Food and Wine Ltd; Adam Byatt – chef and restaurateur.

About balsamic vinegar

Oil and vinegar expert Charles Carey explained: 'Balsamic vinegar originated in and around Modena, northern Italy. Traditionally, balsamic vinegars are made from late harvested, locally grown grapes – usually the Trebbiano variety.

It’s usually true that the most expensive vinegars are the best, but, as the Which? taste test shows, this isn’t always the case. You won’t use a bottle in a night though, so go for the best you can – you’ll find reward in your investment.'

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