Vinegar [ˈvɪnɪgə]n - (Cookery) a sour-tasting liquid consisting of impure dilute acetic acid, made by oxidation of the ethyl alcohol in beer, wine, or cider. It is used as a condiment or preservative
There is a big difference between wine vinegar, and balsamic vinegar (not to mention cider vinegar, and rice vinegar, etc). And, they are actually two different products.
Wine vinegar is made from red or white wine, and is the most commonly used vinegar in Europe and the United States. There is a considerable range in quality, just as with wine. The highest quality wine vinegars are matured in wood for up to two years, and exhibit a complex, mellow flavor. The most expensive wine vinegars are made from individual varieties of wine, such as Champagne or Sherry.
Where things get interesting, and where the original classroom question came up, was with Balsamic Vinegars. Traditional Balsamic vinegar is a product from Italy, produced in the Modena and Reggio Emilia regions of Italy. The names "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena" (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena) and "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia" (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia) are protected names, under the DOC laws of Italy, and the new PDO laws of the European union.
|Balsamic Vinegar in cask|
Reggio Emilia designates the different ages of their balsamic vinegar by label color. A red label means the vinegar has been aged for at least 12 years, a silver label has aged for at least 18 years and the gold label has aged for 25 years or more.
Modena uses a slightly different system to indicate the age. A cream-coloured cap means the vinegar has aged for at least 12 years; the magenta cap bearing the designation "extravecchio" (extra old) is for vinegar that has aged for at least 25 years.