Not sure if this belongs here or in the 'general' topic, so apologies if I am posting improperly. Anyway, one of the objectives of our visit to Modena was to experience the traditional balsamic vinegar. Upon arrival (after wearily negotiating the maze of one-way streets that seem to be the Italians' way of testing whether you *really* want to see their famous towns) we found a caffe on the main piazza in town that offers 'digustazione' of ABTM (my abbreviation for 'aceto balsamic tradizonale di Modena'). This is in fact just a taste of only the 12-year old vinegar made by the one brand they sell, and while it is free, and they will let you sample the older stuff if you persist, the prices are very high: 12-year old for 42 euros, 25-year old for 80 euros, or 35-year old for 145 euros (!). My advice: skip this, and go instead to the market around the corner, where you can taste the difference among the ages of vinegar and also compare with the non-traditional stuff. The prices here are much lower, but they are lower still at the vinegar producers' places themselves. You cannot just drop in on these producers, but the tourist office on the square in town will arrange a visit if you ask. We asked one morning and were set up with a visit to the Acetaia di Giorgio, located just outside town. The reception there was very warm and friendly, and Giovanna, the wife of Giorgio, gave us an excellent tour of their facility in wonderful English (Giorgio, whose English is less fluent, was showing the place to a bilingual Australian couple). They sell their vinegars only to restaurants and to visitors, 35 euros for the 12-year old and 65 euros for the 25-year old "plus" (it is actually hard to say how old it is, since it is only 'at least' 25 years old). An added perk: they are experimenting with single-wood barrel aging for some of their batches, instead of rotating the vinegar among barrels of oak, cherry, mulberry, juniper, and chestnut. The resulting vinegars, which they have produced in only-cherry and only-juniper barrels, were available for us to taste, but not yet to buy. When they are available, in September, I think they will make a big splash, since they were very interesting flavors that are instantly distinguishable from the other stuff. They have a website if you're interested: www.acetaiadigiorgio.it.
(Incidentally, I am in no way connected to this company or family, but think they produce a great product.)