“Il balsamic bianco è industrialissimo,” white balsamic is a super industrial product. That is the first thing Mariangela, our balsamic vinegar maker in Modena, said when we brought up white balsamic vinegar. We have been wondering a lot about this mysterious “white” balsamic lately, something we’ve been hearing more and more about.
When you think about it, of course, white balsamic doesn’t make any sense. As our balsamic vinegar maker Andrea, from Reggio Emilia, reminded us when he was visiting us in NYC, the whole point of balsamic, both Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale and good balsamic condiment, is that the grapes are cooked. And when you cook grapes, even green grapes, they turn a dark color. The grape juice lightly caramelizes and turns brownish. When the cooked grape juice is aged in wood, it becomes even darker because of the tannins in the wood.
Just to be clear and to make sure we do a proper job of fully myth-busting white balsamic, white balsamic DOES NOT mean the grapes used are white/green grapes. Totally Incorrect. Balsamic vinegar is made with both white grapes (for example trebbiano) and red grapes (for example lambrusco). The red grape is not where the balsamic gets its color, the color comes from the cooking.
So, then, what’s the deal with white balsamic? As far as Mariangela and Andrea know, it was invented in the USA to not make salads look “dirty” and to add “extreme sweetness.” Balsamics or balsamic condiments are typically dark in color, so this white balsamic likely has some sort of white dye added to it in order to make it appear lighter.
Traditional balsamic vinegar and balsamic condiments are always dark in color. So why is white balsamic vinegar white? Due to an industrial process that has nothing to do with good Italian traditional vinegar making. Overall, it’s best to avoid this industrial, mystery vinegar.
In short, mystery solved. White balsamic? File next to truffle oil.