The finest balsamic vinegars cost a great deal indeed, but you should be wary of cheap bottles. Low-prices indicate the vinegar has not been authentically aged in several different fragrant wooden barrels over a long period, and it is this that creates the genuine rich flavour that all the foodie fuss is about.
Do not purchase a bottle of this vinegar unless it says Balsamico di Modena tradizionale on the label.
Balsamic is not technically vinegar and the manufacturing process has more in common with sherry than with other vinegars. It is made from cooked grape juice - white grapes, surprisingly, given balsamic's intense colour.
Products such as 'apple balsamic' and 'fig balsamic' have a similarly rich flavour but will either have been made with juice from a different fruit, or be regular balsamic flavoured with another juice during manufacture.
Sprinkle over salads, grilled meats, poultry and seafood, or add a small amount to sauces and stews. It is also famously served with strawberries as a dessert.