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How to Make Your Own Red Wine Vinegar

Are you tired of throwing out half-full bottles of wine?  (If this is a frequent problem, maybe it’s time for a preservation system!) Do you wish you could put those leftovers to good use?  You can!  Try making homemade red wine vinegar.  Not only is it a great way to use up the ends of bottles, it’s easy and the results are spectacular.

Homemade red wine vinegar is very different from the store-bought stuff.  Even expensive store-bought vinegars are often rushed through fermentation, making them highly acidic and lacking in flavor.  Homemade vinegar, by contrast, has a milder, more rounded taste that is great for deglazing a pan, incorporating into a sauce, and of course, for making a great vinaigrette.

You’ll need a starter, commonly referred to as a mother.  A vinegar mother is composed of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria.  It

A vinegar mother

feeds on a fermenting alcoholic liquid (in this case, red wine), and uses oxygen from the air to turn alcohol into acetic acid.  A mother is a strange-looking, cloudy-whitish substance (see picture), but it can’t hurt you or the vinegar, and it’s easy to strain it out from your product with a coffee filter.

You can make your own mother by leaving out vinegar, uncovered and ideally in a shallow dish, to catch the naturally-occurring bacteria from the air and allow it to cultivate.  But this can be a tough and time-consuming process; it’s easy to start cultivating the wrong bacteria and watch your vinegar attempts rot again and again.  If you want to make it easy on yourself, you can either get a mother from a vinegar-making friend, or you can order one from a beer-and-wine-making supplier.

Besides your mother, you’ll need an earthenware crock with a plastic or wooden spigot.  Bigger is better here–a crock that holds at least a gallon will free you up to make a large quantity of vinegar.  If you think you might want to bottle your vinegar for friends–it makes a great gift–buy a bigger one.

Vinegar-making doesn’t require a specific recipe, but here’s a basic one to get your started: Add two parts red wine to one part vinegar to your crock, and toss in the mother.  Cover the crock with cheesecloth (to keep out insects) and attach it with a rubber band.  Then simply add a couple cups of red wine to the crock twice a week for the next two weeks.  Let the crock sit for about 10 weeks.  When it tastes and smells like vinegar, it’s ready.

The best wine vinegars are made from good wines.  Typically, fruitier, younger wines result in tastier vinegars.  After your vinegar is ready, you can let it age in the bottle for a deeper, richer flavor.  You can even add herbs or spices to make flavored vinegars.

Stop throwing away your leftover wine!  Put it to good use, and enjoy a tasty, homemade red wine vinegar for many meals to come.

We’ve also written about white wine vinegar! Check it out.

  1. April 8th, 2010 at 22:05 | #1

    Do you have suggestions on wine/brew supplier to get the Mother from?

  2. May 14th, 2010 at 20:07 | #2

    You might try natural foods places as well, or checking with local farmer’s market type folks.

  3. Pete
    May 18th, 2010 at 15:14 | #3

    Can you use wine that has been stored in too high a temp and is no longer drinkable?

  4. May 19th, 2010 at 10:09 | #4

    I found this mother-of-vinegar starter for red-wine vingegars. Haven’t tried it yet, though.

  5. Maria
    July 12th, 2010 at 20:39 | #5

    I have a carboy of Syrah wine that has turned into vinegar. I would like to make red wine vinegar out of it rather than throwing it away, I would also like to use different herbs such as rosemary and garlic. Please help me with ideas of the steps that I need to follow and how to store it. I have access to wine bottles w/ cork tops. Any ideas, thanks

  6. Stephanie Warren
    August 16th, 2010 at 13:51 | #6

    Hi Maria! Flavored wine vinegars are a great way to spice up your kitchen–and they make great gifts too! Check out our post on making flavored wine vinegars–hope it helps!

  7. November 19th, 2010 at 11:37 | #7

    You can use the mother from unfiltered, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. It settles to the bottom. You can see it in the bottle. You can get it at any health food store and some larger chain grocery stores.

  8. Bert
    August 16th, 2011 at 22:24 | #8

    My first try at a cab was a disaster (I think I ended up with some cleaning solution/acid in my batch). Since that

    first attempt, I have found that it is both a science, and an art! My second batch was a success, and a good one if

    I don’t say so myself. I did find a website that helped a ton though. Cheers…(clink)!

  9. kiwi
    September 15th, 2012 at 13:02 | #9

    I have had the same vinegar brewing for more than 5 years. I started when someone told me that the mother of all vinegar is the sediment in the bottom of the bottles. I began saving small amounts with Grand Vin Margaux and stayed with the same vintage but also added St. Emilion or St. Julien as they all have that sediment at the end of the bottle. Now, I like my vinegar but has some concerns about the foam that is sitting on top of my wine. (1992 Margaux) I thought about straining it go get rid of the foam, but am not sure if I would be harming the process. Anyone have a comment?

  10. Loretta Fritz
    September 23rd, 2012 at 16:29 | #10

    I think you have a typo in the recipe above, 6th paragraph: “Vinegar-making doesn’t require a specific recipe, but here’s a basic one to get your started: Add two parts red wine to one part vinegar to your crock…” Shouldn’t this be to one part ** WATER ** ?

    Looking forward to starting my first bit of vinegar today!

  11. Cate
    November 26th, 2012 at 12:31 | #11

    Instead of buying a mother you can also use a live vinegar like Bragg’s as a starter. Just spike the wine with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of Bragg’s and after about 2-3 weeks undisturbed the mother should have started to form. I started mine this way and now have a nice thick mother going in several batches. Of course, buying a mother or getting one from a friend would be a faster, more surefire way to start. But using a live, unpasturized vinegar is a nice alternative.

  1. April 8th, 2010 at 20:19 | #1
  2. May 19th, 2010 at 10:04 | #2
  3. June 15th, 2010 at 21:12 | #3
  4. June 17th, 2010 at 18:37 | #4
  5. June 21st, 2010 at 17:07 | #5
  6. November 26th, 2012 at 12:48 | #6
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  9. July 26th, 2013 at 12:42 | #9