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Wine’s Other Self

Wine’s “other self” is vinegar. One of the two best vinegars in the world is Italy’s traditional balsamic vinegar (the other is Spain’s solera-aged Sherry vinegar). Needless to say, the inexpensive “balsamic vinegar” you find in a supermarket is decidedly not great. It’s just ordinary red wine vinegar that’s been sweetened and colored with caramel. Real balsamic vinegar is made only in Emilia-Romagna, just north of Tuscany, around the towns of Modena and Reggio. It’s labeled aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena or di Reggio, and the Italian government grants it a DOP, Denomination of Protected Origin, equivalent to DOC status for wines. Price is always a tip-off: A small 3-ounce vial of balsamico tradizionale can be $100 or more. For many Italians, the most godly of all culinary combinations is a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese moistened with a few drops of an especially lush, old, traditional balsamic vinegar.

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