Do you often find yourself with leftover wine after dinner?
Whether you live alone and struggle to drink a whole bottle of wine, or your partner urges you to open a second bottle and then doesn’t help you finish it, there’s no need to waste your leftovers.
The most obvious solution is to invest in some wine stoppers so you can keep your unfinished wine fresh for several days. If you prefer drinking champagne, you can also find dedicated champagne sealers so you keep all those bubbles intact.
That’s not the only way you can make that leftover wine go further, though.
Today, we’ll be showing you how you can make red wine vinegar so you won’t waste a drop of your favorite vino even if you can’t always suck the bottle dry.
First thing’s first, what is vinegar?
What Is Vinegar?
Vinegar is a fermentation of acetic acid. You make vinegar by converting alcohol into acetic acid through the introduction of bacteria along with free oxygen.
The most common bacteria used is acetobacter aceti. This is a type of AAB (acetic acid bacteria) found plentifully in the air around us.
The acidity of vinegar has many use cases for livening up your recipes, and vinegar can also work well if you’re looking to balance out your cocktails.
Vinegars have been made from wines since as far back as 6000 BC. Today, you can make vinegars from ciders and spirits as well as fruits and vegetables using a range of techniques old and new.
Now, before you dash in and start blundering around in the kitchen, you should take the time to conduct a little more due diligence.
Don’t Skip Your Research
Fail to plan, plan to fail.
At least take the time to understand the basics of fermentation as this will make your life easier as you start experimenting.
You’ll then need to decide which method you’ll employ for turning your old wine into vinegar.
One option is to allow your wines to oxidize so that they become more acidic in a spontaneous manner. This is a volatile and unreliable method, though. This process is also super-slow and could take months to complete. Have you got that sort of time on your hands?
What can you do, then, if you want superior consistency and more control?
Well, it’s here that you need the a helper, sometimes referred to as the wine’s mother. You’ll need to some acetic acid bacteria. This can come in the form of an unpasteurized vinegar from a previous batch, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, or as a traditional starter like a gelatinous lump of AAB.
Now, the good news is that you don’t need to spend too much more time researching, and you won’t need to splash out on any pricey equipment either. The most important ingredient you’ll need when making red wine vinegar is time, so if you have some of that spare, read on for the mechanics of making wine from vinegar.
How To Make Vinegar from Wine
Before anything else, you should be clear how the wine you’re using will impact the type of vinegar you end up with.
The higher the content of sugars and alcohol in your wine, the more intense the acetic acid in your vinegar will be. Wines high in sugar like Riesling yield sharp, tart vinegars ideal for use in condiments or for pickling.
Conversely, lower-alcohol wines and even cider or beer make a better choice if you want a vinegar that’s lower in acid.
1. What You Need
- Mason jar or glass container
- pH meter
2. What To Do in 10 Easy Steps
- Decant your remaining wine into an open-necked container like a mason jar or similar glass vessel
- Dilute the wine if necessary until it’s 8% ABV (alcohol by volume). You’ll need to perform some simple calculations to get this right. As an example, if you had a full bottle of 14% wine in a 750ml bottle, you’d need roughly 560ml of water to dilute this to the right level. Make sure you leave a couple of inches of headspace at the top of the container as wine can foam when you introduce oxygen
- Add your chosen source of AAB whether that’s apple cider vinegar – unpasteurized, of course – or a vinegar starter. Ideally, use a starter along with some unpasteurized vinegar. Use roughly 20% of the volume of diluted wine as unpasteurized vinegar for optimum results. If you use only a starter, the result will be the same, but you’ll need to wait longer
- Cover your container with a layer of cheesecloth. This will allow the air to penetrate, a vital part of the process, while also preventing any pests from contaminating the mix. Allow the mixture to stand as it bubbles for anywhere from 10 to 20 days
- Cover the surface of the liquid with a gelatinous vinegar mother. If you use a transparent container, you’ll be able to watch this fascinating process unfold
- Measure the pH to determine when you’re done. You should be looking for levels between 2.4 and 4.4. If you don’t have a pH meter, you can test your vinegar by tasting it. All that counts is achieving your desired effect
- Strain off the mother and set this aside for your next batch, assuming you enjoy the first batch!
- Filter your vinegar. You should be looking for a clear consistency
- Decant your finished vinegar into a bottle
- If you failed to pasteurize your vinegar, you might notice a small mother building on the top of the storage bottle. This is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about, just another intriguing part of the process of making vinegar from wine.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to put all of the above tips into practice, you can still turn your unfinished wines into vinegar as long as you have a source of AAB and some cheesecloth to cover your container with. You might not benefit from the same degree of precision, but you’ll certainly end up with an edible vinegar.
If you’re looking for a wine mother, the unpasteurized vinegar you’ll come across has a cloudy appearance, and could even have some floating strands in it. Look at this as a good thing, though. These friendly bacteria are responsible for transforming your unfinished wine into a batch of tart, homemade vinegar. What’s not to love?
To round out, a trio of FAQs about making vinegar from wine so you have everything you need in one place.
1) What is a vinegar mother and can I make vinegar from wine without one?
Sometimes referred to as the mother, a live starter made from acetic acid and cellulose helps to convert the alcohol into vinegar along with some help from the surrounding oxygen. A mother serves a similar role to the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) you use when you’re making kombucha. The mother is sometimes found as a gelatinous disc that floats in your vinegar. See above for advice on finding a wine mother.
2) How can I tell when the process of making vinegar from wine has worked?
Once your vinegar has been fermenting in a cool and dark spot for a few months, it’s time to give it a try. If you still taste too much wine, it needs a few more weeks to develop. Sometimes, you could need as long as 3 or 4 months for fermentation, so pack plenty of patience.
3) What else do I need to make red wine vinegar?
If you’re looking to get into vinegar making on a regular basis, you might consider picking up a spigot and an earthenware crock. That aside, you need relatively little to get started making lip-smacking vinegar from your unfinished wine.
Well, if you arrived here today without the first idea about how to make vinegar from wine, that should have changed by now.
Just like when you’re collecting and aging wine, making vinegar calls for plenty of time and patience. If you’re looking for a quick and easy fix, this process is not for you. If, on the other hand, you enjoy undertaking lengthy projects and you don’t mind waiting a month or two, you could soon be enjoying the best vinegar you’ve tasted while also minimizing the amount of wine you waste.
Before you get down to business with that leftover wine, we’d ask you to bookmark BriccoWine. Over the coming year, we have an extremely ambitious content calendar, and we’ll be building out our site to cover all aspects of collecting and drinking wine. We’ll see you very soon!