A high-quality traditional balsamic vinegar takes years to age, and its price tag is a reflection of this lengthy process. Balsamic vinegar is naturally self-preserving due to its acidity, but it’s also vulnerable to heat and light, so it’s best stored in a dark, cool place when not in use. This will help reduce evaporation and contamination. However, as time goes by, the vinegar will start to lose its complex flavors. While it won’t make you sick if used past the expiration date on the bottle, it will begin to degrade and may even turn moldy.
In order to label their products as "balsamic vinegar," manufacturers have to meet certain standards. This includes the grape varietals used, aging techniques, and production methods. The best balsamic vinegars are aged from seven different grape varieties (Sangiovese, Trebbiano, Lambrusco, Ancellotta, Fortana, Montuni, and Vaccaro). These are usually only found in the Modena and Reggio Emilia regions of Italy.
The less expensive commercial-grade balsamic vinegar is typically made from Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes, which are known for their low alcohol content. The vinegar is boiled in large cauldrons to reduce its volume, then transferred into smaller wooden barrels for aging. It’s not as expensive as the top-shelf stuff, but it doesn't offer the same complexity of flavor. This type of balsamic is great for everyday cooking and salad dressings. However, it won't last as long as the premium stuff. This article will discuss how long does balsamic vinegar last, storage methods, and signs of spoilage.