Does Balsamic Vinegar Go Bad?

Many people wonder – does balsamic vinegar go bad or not? Traditional balsamic vinegar is a condiment and is sought after by chefs across the world. The fact that it is produced in small quantities and that it takes several years to be made make it a very expensive condiment. The rarer the product, the higher its price. Balsamic vinegar is made by gradual reduction of Trebbiano grape juice. The grape juice is heated and distilled and then the leftover residue is kept to ferment in barrels. The grape juice ferments over several years and the final product is a dark brown colored, sweet and thick liquid. It is used in very small quantities and not poured into a dish like normal vinegar, it is used in drops.

This kind of vinegar originated in Italy. Traditional balsamic vinegar takes many years to be produced and so it is not something that you will find easily in the market. However, you will find the commercially produced balsamic vinegar over the counter. This is made from a different process of artificial fermentation and reduction of grape juice. The big difference lies when a person tastes the two liquids. Both would have same dark brown color and thickness but the traditionally prepared one will have a kind of complex sweetness which gives you hints that it was aged in very special way. The acidic sting will also be very less in the traditional one. Whereas the commercially made one will taste a little sweet, with a little acidic flavor.

Pompeian Balsamic Vinegar
Image used under Creative Commons from SidewaysSarah

How To Store Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is aged for several years in barrels that may be centuries old. It ages over many years and needs to be kept in some place where it can be left undisturbed for long. It should be stored in some cool and dark place. The reason being that lot of heat and sunlight can destroy the naturally developed flavor of this liquid. If someone has a bottle of balsamic vinegar and he has opened the bottle once, he needs to just make sure that he replaces the lid back tightly and then store it in some place where it is dark and cool. This is exactly the way, this liquid is stored.

Shelf Life of Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar belongs to the category of consumable food products that do not get stale over time. Honey is one product which stays forever. Wine, whisky, rum and balsamic vinegar are products that get better with age. Traditionally prepared balsamic vinegar is used sparingly and some people had them passed on from their previous generations. If properly stored, the vinegar will age and the flavor enhances overtime.

The commercially prepared ones come with a shelf life of few years (3 to 4). The traditional ones come with the tag of aging for 12 or 18 or in some cases 25 years. Here, the number of years is a sign of quality. The more aged balsamic vinegar is, the better it will taste. Some have been aged for over 70 years. The bottles of traditional balsamic vinegars which have been passed on from older generations may be centuries old. It is in fact interesting that it is treated as a prized family possession.

How To Tell If Balsamic Vinegar Is Bad

If stored properly and taken good care of, balsamic vinegar doesn’t go bad. However, if someone opens a bottle of vinegar and doesn’t replaces the lid back tightly, it may evaporate away. Another possibility is that since the bottle has been opened and contact with air is there for a long time, so as a result of bacterial activity in it, the liquid might look cloudy. This means that a gelatinous white substance is forming up in the liquid. The gelatinous substance is very commonly seen in vinegar if it has prolonged contact with air. Generally the taste of balsamic vinegar is mellow acidic with its own characteristic sweetness but if it starts to taste harsh, then it means that it has gone bad. Also check if the content of the bottle shows any signs of mold development or smells moldy. If it does smell moldy then do not use it.


The above information will help you identify commercially prepared balsamic vinegar and the traditionally prepared one. As mentioned earlier, this condiment is used very sparingly and so care should be exercised while using it. Also check the consistency, smell, look and taste of the vinegar before using it for salads or anything else. Balsamic vinegar can go bad, but only if it’s stored improperly.