I'm a home winemaker. How would I make my own balsamic vinegar?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I have started making wine and now wish to make my own balsamic vinegar. Making wine is easy, as I can get the grapes, grape juice or wine kits to make my own wine. But where can I get the correct juice to make the vinegar?

—Chris, Raleigh, N.C.

Dear Chris,

To be clear, there’s a big difference between ordinary red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar. Red wine vinegar is pretty easy to make from red wine. But balsamic vinegar is made from a syrup that’s fermented and aged very slowly.

If you want to make balsamic at home, you’ll need to get some Italian grapes like Trebbiano, Ancellotta or Lambrusco—which, interestingly, are all white wine grapes. You’ll need to ripen them, crush them, and then simmer the must in an open pot for a day or two, until you have an intensely sweet syrup that’s reduced to about half its original volume. Cool it down, then put it in a barrel and don’t touch it for six months or a year, minimum. You can either add a vinegar “mother,” or let the yeasts occur naturally. First the concoction will need to turn into alcohol, and then it converts to vinegar.

OK, now you have vinegar, but you don’t have balsamic yet. You need to age it more—about 10 years more. As it ages (and gradually evaporates), transfer it to successively smaller casks. Usually, different types of wood barrels are used so the vinegar can absorb the different flavors, like oak, mulberry, chestnut, and more.

So, whew! That’s a lot of work, and if you try to replicate these steps at home, I’m not sure what you’ll end up with. The good news? Suddenly, the price of a bottle of decent balsamic doesn’t seem so expensive!

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

How do I know if a sparkling wine is fruit-forward vs. yeasty?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny shares some Champagne wisdom on how aging impacts aromas …

Oct 28, 2020

Is it possible to "fix" old wine that has gone bad?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the key elements of proper wine storage, and how …

Oct 26, 2020

Do boxed wines contain more preservatives than bottled wines?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains explains why box wines age the way they do (and …

Oct 23, 2020

Do dessert wines lose their sweetness with age?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny talks to two experts on Bordeaux dessert wines from …

Oct 21, 2020

Should you hold a bottle of wine by the punt when pouring?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers tips for wine service.

Oct 19, 2020

What does “angular” mean in wine tasting lingo?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the wine tasting descriptors for structure and …

Oct 16, 2020