How To Make Red Wine Vinegar At Home

February 18th, 2014 - filed under: The Food » Recipes


One of the interesting side effects of dating someone in the wine business is that there’s lots of wine. Everywhere. Always. During business hours, wine gets opened for professional tastings, for client sampling, for . . . curiosities sake. It seems like there’s always extra wine lying around, these days.

Which is new for me! I had always wanted to brew my own red wine vinegar at home (you all know how I do so love my DIY ferments), but, well, wine was something that was always scarce and sacred ’round these parts! So when Jeremy came into my life, and I found myself swimming in more wine than I could possibly ever put to use, I knew the time had finally come. Vinegar time!


I am delighted to report that making red wine vinegar at home is just about as easy as it gets. And the results? Oh my goodness, this vinegar! I’ve been using it daily on my salads, and it’s the best red wine vinegar I’ve ever had – pungent and robust, yet silky smooth and surprisingly refined.

Red wine vinegar has always been my favorite salad vinegar, but it’s also excellent in marinades, sauces, pickled dishes, and even some desserts! And like I said, it’s just a snap to make at home.

It does require a bit of upfront investment, but the payoff is huge (and perpetual – you can continue brewing ad infinitum). To start, you’ll need to purchase a mother of vinegar, which is sort of like a kombucha SCOBY but obviously, you know, for vinegar.

You’ll also need a goodly portion of wine, somewhere between a half gallon and a gallon. The better quality wine you use, the better your vinegar will be. But you don’t have to use all of the same kind! Feel free to mix and match. We used exclusively Pinot Noir because, well because we could so why not? But most commercial red wine vinegars draw from a variety of grapes. My suggestion is to wait until you have a party or an event or something – something that will leave you with a few opened, partially-full bottles. Maybe a work function, or a dinner party. Or, worse comes to worst, you can save your own leftovers in the fridge for a couple of months, until you’ve accumulated enough. That would work too.


To make your vinegar, dump all of your wine (about 1/2 – 3/4 gallons) into a clean glass jar (I use 1-gallon jars that I bought for a song when my neighborhood bulk herb shop went under (so sad, long live Limbo!), but you can find the exact same thing here).

Add 1/4 – 3/4 cup filtered water. These measurements are imprecise, and that’s sort of the point. It’s not baking. It’s okay to be loosey goosey with the amounts, I promise! Just make sure that everything is clean, and you’ll be fine.

Add the mother of vinegar. Cover the opening with a rag or cheesecloth, held in place by a rubber band. Store out of direct sunlight, in a warm (not hot) dry place. I like to keep my ferments on top of my refrigerator, shaded behind the plants.


We began tasting our vinegar at around 5 weeks. The full conversion might take a few months, and yes, the more age on the vinegar, the better it will taste. But we couldn’t wait!

After 5 weeks, our homemade red wine vinegar was already delicious.


When the taste of the vinegar is to your liking, filter it through a sieve (to catch the mother threads) and into storage bottles. I keep one bottle in the pantry and the rest in the fridge (refrigeration is not required). Remember to leave a few inches in the bottom of the gallon jar!

Now, you can just continue to add all your leftover wines as you collect them. A few dregs here, a forgotten half bottle there. As you add to the culture, remember to include a splash of water every now and again. The mother will continue to convert the wine into vinegar, and you’ll be able to draw off of it forevermore. As long as you keep adding wine, you’ll keep getting vinegar.


So what do you think? Is homemade red wine vinegar in your future? Also, I’d love to hear from anyone who’s already done this!

Next up in my fermentation laboratory: apple cider vinegar! I’ll make sure to report back as soon as I get some results . . .


  • katta

    Looks amazing! So great to have wine around and to find a way to use all those bits :)
    Although bits don’t tend to last around here (that’s what pasta sauce is for!)

  • Lynn

    Awesome! I looove red wine vinegar, it’d be great to have for my own and to give as gifts! I accidentally killed off my sourdough starter, but I think I could keep vinegar alive ;)

  • Deirdre

    The best kind of kitchen witchery!

  • Samantha Ellwood

    So cool! Can’t wait to hear about the ACV! :)

  • Alex Bardsley

    Single-wine vinegars offer more variety. Whisk a little mother into your half-full, leftover bottle with a chopstick, adding a splash of water if the wine’s alcohol is over 13%abv. Cover the opening with a cheesecloth tea/bouquet garni bag and a rubber band to keep out fruit flies, dust and whatnot. Wait a few months; filter through cheesecloth; rinse out the bottle to remove sediment (which may not be easy) or decant into a clean half-bottle, and cork it.

  • Liz

    I know someone who makes wine vinegar and sells it commercially….he buys his wine for next to nothing from wineries when they have a batch that doesn’t come out quite right or tastes a little off and they can’t keep it for wine. But the vinegar still turns our great! I wonder if we home brewers could tap into some of this unusable wine?

  • jill

    I wonder if one could use the goop in Bragg’s apple cider vinegar? My guess is it would work (and be cheaper!) but probably take longer. I’ll have to try it sometime.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yeah, they never lasted long around here before Jeremy either. ;-)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    It’s so easy! And truly, the very best RWV I’ve ever had. And yeah, I also killed my sourdough starter almost immediately . . .

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yes! Makin’ magical brews!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yeah I have all the apple cores saved up in the freezer, just need to get the batch brewing. Soon!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Love that idea, thanks! I’ll definitely try it. =)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    That’s a great idea! I’ll ask Jeremy about that, but it makes sense to me. I wonder how much “bad” wine breweries actually end up with?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yup, just like making a SCOBY from store-bought kombucha, you can brew apple cider vinegar using unpasteurized store-bought ACV. That’s what I’m going to use for mine!

    Or did you mean for the red wine vinegar? It wouldn’t work for that because it’s a different kind of mother. I tried making homemade red wine vinegar from store-bought unpasteurized red wine vinegar, but it didn’t work. I’m going to play with that some more, though.

  • Daniela

    This is fermentation related but not vinegar related. I have been trying to ferment my own vegetables but something is not working. I follow instructions but my vegetables will not ferment and just end up with brine and rotting vegetables. I use sea salt and filtered water, so I think I am doing everything right. Could someone please tell me what I am doing wrong!

  • The Vegan Cookie Fairy

    I don’t drink wine very often (too poor of a student for that) but this is something to keep in mind for the future!

  • Karen Barnes

    Sayward I’ve loved following your blog (for almost two years now!) Therefore I’ve nominated you for The Sunshine Award! (You can follow the link for more award details.) It’s really not a big deal, just recognition from one blogger to another. Just wanted to say thank you, your vulnerability at times has encouraged me to open up my heart as well. (And your food tips are great!)

  • Jessica Minguez

    Limbo! In SE Portland, right? I used to love going there, and always made a point to at least go in and purchase SOMEthing any time I went to the Trader Joe’s next door (I’m assuming TJ’s took over the space?). I would usually check out their produce and snag a coffee before heading over for my TJ needs. The peeps there were so nice and, well, Portlandy (you feel me, right?) and they always had the best overripe organic bananas. Pardon my fruit fantasizing; I live in Alaska and the fruit in our stores this time of year is, well… awful. :(

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yes, Limbo! Haha, awww those perfect and perfectly cheap bananas. Memories! =D

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Aww, thank you Karen! That’s so sweet, and I’m so glad my blog has encouraged you to live more authentically. Cheers!

  • Julie

    Asian markets often feature vinegars with a clump of mother in the bottom. Look for palm vinegar from Oceana. Cheap mother. I once made pumpkin wine and a botle rolled to the back of the cupboard where I did not see it. mIt was the last bottle filled and had excfessive airspace. In 6 months I found it and it was vinegar. Made great pumpkin salad dressing.
    Julie in San Diego

  • Veronica

    Quick question: Is the link to purchasable RWV Mother a brand that you recommend? I didn’t see a lot of reviews on Amazon for the product. It’s definitely an investment I want to make, but I want to thoroughly vet the brand first.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yes! That’s the one I use and the one I recommend. It’s an initial investment but once you have the culture established, it’s self-perpetuating, so you never have to buy red wine vinegar again!

  • Liz

    Toward the end you say “Remember to leave a few inches in the bottom of the gallon jar!” but …… this might be silly, but how do you leave a few inches in the bottom of a jar??? Am I missing something? I just got my mother and jar and am starting this today! Thanks :)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Haha, I totally see how that could be confusing. I meant, leave a few inches of vinegar at the bottom of the big gallon jar AFTER you pour off and bottle up your first batch, because that few inches will become your new “mother” after you add more wine + water for your next batch. Does that make sense?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    You can see what I mean int he last picture, with the vinegar all bottled and a few inches left in the big gallon jar ==> which will become the new mother for the next batch.

  • Liz

    Sorry, I just thought to check this! Yes that makes perfect sense. So you filter it through the sieve into the smaller bottles, then do you put any mother you just caught back into the big jar?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yep, or you don’t even have to put the mother you caught back. If you leave 2 inches of vinegar in the bottom of the jar, there will be more than enough mother to begin the new batch.

  • Liz

    Interesting! Thanks so much!!! I’m looking forward to trying it (in a few more weeks still). I’m thinking of doing this all year and then giving them out as Christmas gifts to the family :D We’ll see! Thanks again for all of your help!

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