Does balsamic vinegar have alcohol?

In this brief guide, we will discuss the following question, “does balsamic vinegar have alcohol?”, the origin of balsamic vinegar, which balsamic vinegar to choose, how to store it, and other queries related to this topic.

Does balsamic vinegar have alcohol? 

Yes, balsamic vinegar has alcohol. Its total acidity must not be less than 4.5 g of acetic acid per 100 ml and residual ethanol may be present in quantities lower than 1.5% v/v.(1)

As established in an official TBV guideline, the final product must have a total acidity of 4.5% (expressed as acetic acid g/100g) and relative density higher than 1.240. (2)

Traditional balsamic vinegar (TBV) is a type of homemade vinegar produced in Italy using a traditional method known as surface culture fermentation. 

The production of TBV involves the use of cooked grapes must, which contains a high concentration of soluble solids such as glucose and fructose, typically ranging from 20 to 60°Bx, along with pH values of 2.3–3.2.

Similar to other vinegars, TBV is created through a two-stage fermentation process. In the first stage, yeasts convert fermentable sugars into ethanol, resulting in an ethanol content ranging from 4 to 10%. 

In the second stage, acetic acid bacteria (AAB) oxidize the ethanol, transforming it into acetic acid. Both stages occur naturally through spontaneous fermentation.

The fermentation process takes place in a series of 5 to 7 wooden barrels arranged in decreasing volumes. Each year, a volume of the final product is extracted from the smallest barrel (barrel 1) and replaced with an equal volume of the product from the preceding barrel in the set. 

The first barrel (barrel 5) receives new cooked must. This process, known as “refilling,” is performed once a year and continues for a minimum period of 12 years.

As the vinegar matures along the set of barrels, there is an increase in sugar concentration due to evaporation through the openings on the top of the barrels and the wood. 

This evaporation, coupled with the low pH of the vinegar, creates conditions that limit the growth of AAB. Consequently, bacterial activity decreases progressively from the first barrel to the last, where no biological activity is detectable. (2)

Where does Balsamic Vinegar come from?

Balsamic vinegars, derived from cooked grape must. It is important to distinguish between Balsamic Vinegar and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar.

Balsamic Vinegar refers to a category of commercially-produced vinegars that are created by blending cooked must with wine vinegar and occasionally adding a small amount of caramel. These vinegars are typically aged in barrels for a relatively short period, ranging from 2 months to a few years.

On the other hand, Traditional Balsamic Vinegar (referred to as TBV) is a distinct category of vinegars renowned for their exceptional quality, crafted using traditional methods in the northern Italian provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia. TBV production follows strict regulations and guidelines.

This type of vinegar can be described as a highly concentrated and dark-brown liquid that undergoes a minimum aging period of 12 years. It possesses a unique combination of sweet and sour flavors, exhibiting a fruity and complex taste profile. (1)

How to store balsamic vinegar?

Properly storing balsamic vinegar follows similar principles to storing other vinegar types, such as rice, white, or red wine vinegar. Employing effective storage techniques is vital to maintain the vinegar’s quality and slow down deterioration and decomposition processes.

To ensure optimal storage conditions, it is advisable to refrain from purchasing balsamic vinegar in clear bottles, as exposure to light can hasten its deterioration. 

Instead, select airtight containers with proper seals that shield the vinegar from oxidative changes. When balsamic vinegar comes into contact with air, it can evaporate, leading to a loss of flavor.

Store balsamic vinegar in a dry place at room temperature. It is crucial to protect it from direct sunlight and excessive heat, as these factors can accelerate the degradation process. 

Opt for a dark location that is away from heat sources and light to prolong the vinegar’s shelf life.(3, 4)

Is it possible for balsamic vinegar to spoil after it has been opened?

Balsamic vinegar has a long shelf life and does not typically spoil on its own. However, the introduction of contaminants can lead to its degradation.

In the case of traditional balsamic vinegar (TBV), the raw material consists of cooked grapes with pH values ranging from 2.3 to 3.2. This acidic environment creates an unfavorable condition for the growth of bacteria, as there is intense competition within the medium.

Recent studies have shed light on the impact of yeast metabolism on the chemical properties of balsamic vinegar. It is worth noting that contamination with toxins derived from grapes is also a possibility and can affect the quality of the vinegar. (1, 2, 5)

How to use balsamic vinegar?

Balsamic vinegar is not only used for salad dressing. There are many ways to use this vinegar. You can drizzle some of it as a glaze on your chicken, meat, or fish, or too simply serve it with some cheese.

What are the health effects of consuming balsamic vinegar?

Balsamic vinegar provides a range of health benefits, including its potential to support blood sugar regulation by slowing down the digestion of carbohydrates. 

This characteristic makes it particularly advantageous for individuals with diabetes. Furthermore, balsamic vinegar may aid in weight loss efforts.

The primary component of vinegar, acetic acid, possesses antibacterial properties. Vinegar’s antioxidant content helps neutralize free radicals, thereby reducing oxidative stress. 

Balsamic vinegar, specifically, is rich in antioxidants, which can assist in mitigating oxidative stress and potentially lowering the risk of chronic diseases, including diabetes.

Acetic acid and resveratrol, both present in vinegar, contribute to maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system by reducing blood cholesterol levels.

Moreover, vinegar has been shown to lower blood pressure, further reducing the risk of heart-related ailments. The polyphenols found in vinegar also play a role in reducing blood pressure and improving overall circulation. (6)


In this brief guide, we discussed the following question, “does balsamic vinegar have alcohol?” the origin of balsamic vinegar, which balsamic vinegar to choose, how to store it, and other queries related to this topic.


  1. L. Solieri, P. Giudici Yeasts associated to Traditional Balsamic Vinegar: Ecological and technological features, International Journal of Food Microbiology 125, 36–45, 2008.
  2. Maria Gullo, Paolo Giudici, Acetic acid bacteria in traditional balsamic vinegar: Phenotypic traits relevant for starter cultures selection, International Journal of Food Microbiology, 125,46-53, 2008.
  3. Marlene Geiger, Vinegar Shelf Life and Safety, Iowa State University, Answer Line, 2021
  4. Minjeong Kang, Jung-Heun Ha, Youngseung Lee, Physicochemical properties, antioxidant activities and sensory characteristics of commercial gape vinegars during long-term storage, Food Sci. Technol, Campinas, 40(4): 909-916, 2020.
  5. Z.D. Heperkan et al, Unexpectedly high patulin contamination and co-occurrence of ochratoxin A in homemade vinegar, Food Control 148, 2023.
  6. Chin Wai Ho, et al, Varieties, production, composition and health benefits of vinegars: A review, Food Chemistry, 221, 2017

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