It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to email@example.com and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.
What is the percentage of alcohol in Balsamic Wine Vinegar - Modena Brand?
Your bottle may say Modena, but it may or may not be "Modena Brand." The best balsamic vinegars are made in Modena, Italy and many bottles will have the Modena name on them. There is no requirement by the FDA or the USDA that manufacturers report alcohol content of their products (except for wine, beer and spirits).
Because vinegar is made in a two step process, first by fermenting alcohol and then by fermenting the alcohol to acetic acid, there will be some residual alcohol in vinegars. It is, however, very little. I found an article from 2004 in the journal Science Direct that indicates the amount of alcohol in a wine vinegar is between 0.1% and 2%. There are a lot of factors that go into this. One is the length of time that the vinegar is aged. The longer the fermentation, the lower the alcohol content. Another factor is the container used for fermentation. Using oak barrels appears to have an effect that speeds fermentation and thus reduces the alcohol content further and faster.
The amount of alcohol will vary widely between different vinegars depending on the method of fermentation. Since the better quality balsamic vinegars are aged for longer periods and are aged in oak, it is likely that the alcohol content will be much closer to the 0.1% range.
Thanks for writing.
Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP