We can do all sorts of things with wine. Of course, most of us prefer to drink it. There are few things better in life than enjoying a nice meal with a bottle of wine to go along with it. If you can complement your wine with the food, then you’re in for an even better experience.
Many of us also use a smattering of wine for cooking. In fact, there are many recipes, some of which we’ve spoken about on Xtrawine, for which wine is an important component of the dish. A little dash of Italian wine can add that extra bit of flavour, and give the food a touch of pizazz where other types of seasoning might fail.
So far, so normal, right? There are pretty standard uses for Italian wine. But what if we told you that some people use wine to make something a little more unusual?
Vinegar and wine don’t make for traditional bed mates. Yes, you may use vinegar to season a dish, but we bet that most of you have never looked at it as something that you can make from that bottle of red that you have stashed away in the cupboard.
But think about it for a moment. When wine ages, especially if you’ve opened the bottle, it takes on a sour tang that tastes an awful lot like vinegar.
The fact is that many people use their wines to make vinegar. Now, we don’t recommend that you do this with your finest bottle of Italian wine. That would be a waste. However, if you have an old bottle of wine sitting around that you’re not going to drink, why not make something more useful out of it.
That’s where this little guide is going to come in handy. We’re going to run through the five simple steps that you need to follow to turn your Italian wine into a delicious vinegar.
Now, before we get started we have to note something. Creating your wine vinegar using this method can take upwards of a couple of months, so this isn’t something for those with little patience.
Still, if you have the time and the inclination, you’ll find that the steps you must follow are surprisingly simple. Let’s get cracking with the step-by-step.
You’re going to need something that experts refer to as a “mother” to start the whole process off. No, this doesn’t mean you need to make a call to mom so she can come and watch. What it means is that you need another type of vinegar to act as the “mother” for the vinegar that you’re going to create.
This other vinegar contains the live cultures and acids that you’re going to need to turn your leftover wine into a vinegar itself. It’s all about fermentation, as is the case throughout the wine’s life.
You can purchase a “mother” online, or use a live vinegar. However, regular household vinegar likely won’t do the job. It’s too diluted to kick start the process that you need.
Once you have your “mother”, mix it into your wine. An approximate ratio of two parts wine versus one part vinegar should be enough to do the trick and get your fermentation process underway.
So where do you pour your mixture. We suppose that you could keep it in the wine bottle, but it’s going to be hard to see what’s going on if the bottle isn’t perfectly transparent.
Instead, pour your wine into a glass jar, using a measuring jug to figure out exactly how much you’ve poured in. Then, add your “mother”, based on the ratio we mentioned above. You can use either red or white wine to make a vinegar. However, you must not mix red and white together, as this will create something that tastes terrible.
Once you’ve added the mixture to your container, cover it with a cloth of some description. Plastic wrap doesn’t work, as you need the mixture to breathe during the fermentation process. Place the container somewhere dark and cool and let the fermentation process start.
Yes, that’s all there is to the third step really. As with all types of fermentation, all you need to do is create the correct conditions and then let the mixture get to work on its own. It will take about two or three months for the process to complete.
As an added aside, you can add more wine to the mix if you feel like it. In fact, this is a great way to use those last dregs of wine that you aren’t going to drink, and would otherwise end up in the bin. Just remember, don’t mix red and white.
The fourth step involves tasting the wine vinegar. You should start doing this about a month in. It won’t be ready at this point, but you’ll get an idea of what’s going on.
Over the next few weeks, conduct regular taste tests. You’re looking for the point where the wine loses the smoothness that it once had. Instead, you should notice a much sharper and sourer taste. Basically, if it tastes like vinegar, then you can feel safe in the knowledge that you’ve gotten it right.
Once you’re certain that you have a vinegar, pour the mixture into a bunch of small containers. Filter out any leftover “mother”, then you can start enjoying you Italian wine vinegar.
The Final Word
So there you have it. We told you it was pretty easy. All it takes is the right equipment and a bit of patience.
So get digging around in your cupboards. We’re sure that you’ll have a couple of old bottles of wine hanging around that you forgot to finish off. Instead of letting it go to waste, give making some homemade Italian wine vinegar a shot. You never know. You may find yourself wondering how you ever got along with regular vinegar in the first place.