Is red wine vinegar really made from red wine? If it is, what happened to the alcohol?
The Short Answer
Yes, red wine vinegar is made from red wine.
The Long Answer
Ok, so I love red wine vinegar. I need to just get that out there. I’m a sandwich nut, and red wine vinegar mixed with some olive oil is my absolute favorite sub sandwich topping. So, when you enjoy something and you’re curious by nature, you want to feed that curiosity by learning more about it. While learning, I’ve found that a lot of people ask the question “is red wine vinegar really red wine?” or “can you get drunk from it?”
Ok, I’ll answer those right now. Yes, red wine vinegar is indeed made from red wine. No, you can’t get drunk from it.
Both products are made through fermenting red grapes, but to make the vinegar there is an extra step. If you’ve fermented grapes into red wine, and you’re craving the perfect topping to your roast beef sandwich (seriously, it’s amazing), the red wine has to go through a second fermentation process, which allows it to sour. While this may not sound appetizing, I assure you many of the foods you enjoy come from allowing other foods to sour or rot. (Looking at you, cottage cheese!)
When red wine is soured, the wine’s sugar turns into acetic acid. This is what gives red wine vinegar its signature biting flavor. When wine is created, bacteria ferments sugar. Through this second fermenting process, bacteria actually feeds on the wine’s alcohol, using it up until there’s practically none left. Usual levels of remaining ethanol in red wine vinegar come in at under 2%. This process occurs naturally and takes up to 100 hours.
I’ve also seen the questions asked, “can you substitute red cooking wine with red wine vinegar?” I wouldn’t recommend it. While created from the same grapes, these two products are very different, and are used for different things. Red cooking wine can be used to add flavor and moisture to braised or stewed meats. It’s also sometimes used in different dessert sauces. Red wine vinegar is normally used for uncooked meals, such as salads or, as I’ve mentioned, sandwiches.
The word vinegar actually comes from the French word “Vinaigre”, which means sour wine. It was discovered over 7,000 years ago, when people noticed that a soured cask of wine produced an entirely new product. This led to the creation of red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, and balsamic vinegar.
What is your favorite kind of vinegar? Do you use it for salads? Sandwiches? Sound off and let us know!