Balsamic Vinegar has a history that dates back centuries in the Modena and Reggio Emilia regions of Italy.
In these regions it was common to give a barrel of balsamic vinegar as a gift to newlywed couples. These couples would allow the balsamic vinegar to age and eventually they would a have a small treasure resting in their attic.
The process is an art that takes years to master, is time consuming and expensive.
In order to increase production manufacturers needed to avoid these challenges by creating a product meant to imitate the real thing.
This new product that is referred to as "balsamic vinegar" is really just wine vinegar with added sugar, dyes, and sometimes thickening agents. It may be hard to believe but if you check any bottle of balsamic vinegar in your cabinet the first ingredient is almost always going to be "wine vinegar" or "balsamic vinegar".
For this reason, finding real balsamic vinegar can be incredibly difficult.
I have experienced how difficult it can be to find genuine balsamic vinegar when the term is so loosely applied. Often labels, advertisments, etc. will boast the terms "traditional balsamic vinegar", "real balsamic vinegar", or "the best balsamic vinegar", while completely neglecting what balsamic vinegar truly is.
I've even seen flavored products that claim to be "aged for 20 years in Modena". I don't have a way of proving those claims to be false, however I do know that Anselmo (the owner of Antica Acetaia Mandrio) would probably have some not so kind words for me if I ever asked him to artificially flavor his product.
Learning how to differentiate what's real and what's fake when it comes to balsamic vinegar can be difficult. If you'd like to learn more about this check out "How To Find Real Balsamic Vinegar".