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 . . .