DIY Pantry

Want to make red wine vinegar? It’s easy. All you need is time

25th October 2018

Thought making vinegar was the remit of fermenting nerds and professionals. Think again. Turn those leftover red wine dregs into delicious vinegar. All you need is time. Food writer and Farmdrop’s DIY Pantry-regular, Malou Herkes, shows you how.

how to make red wine vinegar

Photo: Natalé Towell

Before you read a million blogs on how to make red wine vinegar, I’d like to impress that you need neither fancy equipment nor any special expertise. You simply need some red wine, a live starter (often referred to as the ‘mother’) and plenty of patience. Time really is the magic ingredient when it comes to making vinegar. Several months to be precise, before red wine transforms into a rather delicious vinegar, without you having to do anything at all.

Start with a decent red wine

To produce vinegar that has delicious depth of flavour, it really does depend on the quality of your wine. That’s not to say you have to go and spend a fortune. The beauty of making vinegar is you can use whatever odds and ends of opened red wine you have to hand. 

Do I need a ‘mother’ to make vinegar?

What you’ve probably heard of as the ‘mother’ is the live starter. It’s made of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria and is what turns alcohol into acetic acid – or vinegar – with a little help of oxygen from the air.

The mother sometimes comes in the form of a gelatinous disk that floats around quite ominously in your vinegar (it’s a similar idea to the SCOBY you use to make kombucha). It can actually develop naturally in the standard red wine vinegar you have in your cupboard. You can either get hold of a mother like this, or you can can buy a bottle of red wine vinegar ‘with the mother’. It might also say ‘raw, unfiltered and unpasteurised’ on the label. This is a rather cloudy vinegar that hasn’t been heated to kill off the helpful bacteria you need to ferment your red wine. 

What else do I need to make red wine vinegar?

While many blogs say to buy an earthenware crock and a quality spigot (which I’m sure is worth the investment if you’re serious about vinegar-making), I used a large Kilner jar secured with a piece of muslin or cheesecloth on top. It worked! You’ll also need some quality red wine and a bottle of red wine vinegar ‘with the mother’. That’s it.

How can I tell if it’s worked?

Leave the vinegar to ferment in a cool, dark place for a couple of months. At the back of a kitchen cupboard where it won’t be disturbed too much is perfect. After that time, give it a try. If it’s still quite winey in flavour, leave it for another few weeks to develop more tang. I left mine for three to four months. My vinegar tasted sweet and mild, and with a lovely depth of flavour.

Need more help? Here’s a step-by-step guide.

Follow this step-by-step guide below. And if you’re still not sure, comment below and I’ll get back to you. There are also many helpful blogs and forums out there with experienced people willing to help. I put out my questions on Instagram and found the answers to many of my queries waiting there. 

Step 1

how to make red wine vinegar

Photo: Natalé Towell

Add some quality red wine to a large Kilner jar.

Step 2

how to make red wine vinegar

Photo: Natalé Towell

Pour in unpasteurised red wine vinegar ‘with the mother’. A ratio of two parts red wine to one part vinegar works well.

Step 3

how to make red wine vinegar

Photo: Natalé Towell

Cover the jar with a piece of muslin or cheesecloth, then secure with an elastic band. This will help to keep any bugs out but will allow enough air in to help it to ferment. Place in a cool, dark place for several months. Keep tasting it – it will go from a winey flavour to something altogether more tangy and acidic.

Step 3

how to make red wine vinegar

Photo: Natalé Towell

Now, bottle it! When it tastes like vinegar, strain it into a clean, airtight bottle. Store it somewhere cool and dark to mature and soften over time. Leave some behind in your jar to kickstart your next batch of vinegar. You can keep adding to it with leftover dregs of wine as you go.

Now use it…

A decent red wine vinegar makes all the difference to salad dressings, pickles, marinades and braised meats. Try it tossed with olive oil, stale sourdough and juicy tomatoes in panzanella, or as the basis of a herby chimichurri sauce served on steak.

Caught the fermenting fever? Here’s your ultimate guide to fermented foods, from kraut to kimchi. Learn how to make your own kombucha, kefir water or apple cider vinegar with these easy guides, and check out how to get more gut-loving kefir into your diet.

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