Acetaia San Giacomo Essenza - 12 years
The only Balsamico Tradizionale in our five, this vinegar is made only from cooked pressed grapes and is aged a minimum of 12 years. While it is less viscous than the Gocce, it is syrup-like, with a powerful aroma of dried berries and wood, as well as dried herbs. Its taste is equally intense, as if a huge sack of dried prunes and sugared plums was liquefied and packed into this tiny vessel. The acidity gives a pleasant mild tingle, and it would be lovely drizzled on some good vanilla ice cream.
HK$145, city'super, citywide
Antica Acetaia Cavedoni Sigillo Rosso - five years
This vinegar, from a 150-year-old family-owned manufacturer, is an entry-level product and is sealed with a synthetic cork, sometimes used for New World wines. On the palate it is rich and reminiscent of port and packed with the flavours of dried fruits with a long acidic finish. It has a distinctive savoury aroma of dried mushrooms and herbs, with a hint of petroleum and an alcohol-like sharpness. It's a complex and bold vinegar that could well go with barbecued meats or a richly flavoured porcini risotto.
HK$80, city'super, citywide
Gocce - eight years
This is the thickest vinegar of the five with intense aromas of caramel, herbs and blackberries accompanied by a delicate fragrance of honeysuckle: 'nectar' would be a fitting description. Berry tones are evident, and there is a definite sweetness, and an acidity that is just as strong. There is also a slight savoury element which would go well with grilled vegetables, particularly tomatoes or drizzled over sweet potato mash. This is for those who like their flavours big and powerful. It might seem expensive, but a little goes a long way.
HK$295, city'super, citywide
Acetaia Reale Da Magreta - two years
This is a very fluid vinegar with the consistency and colour of drip coffee, made in Magreta, a village in Modena. Trebbiano and lambrusco grapes are used, as per tradition, but with the addition of wine vinegar. Initially, the aromas are not easy to detect beneath a hard-hitting acidity, but after airing for a minute or so, the mellow fragrance of floral honey reveals itself. It also has a sweet taste, which can strike a nice balance with slightly bitter greens such as rocket. While the flavours dissipate fairly quickly, it's more than acceptable for everyday use.
HK$80, city'super, citywide
Fattorie Giacobazzi - eight years
Using mostly trebbiano grapes, this vinegar is dark with a slightly thicker consistency, like an espresso. The aroma is woody, like an oaked wine, and on the tongue it is velvety and round, filling the mouth with a cloud of lingering plummy flavours. Miraculously, its acidity can hardly be detected until after it is swallowed, at which point it does give a bit of a kick. The unique way in which this vinegar develops means it is best enjoyed on its own, perhaps with a little olive oil, soaked up with chunks of ciabatta.
HK$180, J's Garden, Jervois Street, Sheung Wan