Waste Not: Turning Wine into Vinegar

By Edible Pioneer Valley Staff | Photography by Dominic Perri

Your dinner party is over. The guests have departed and the candles have burned low. As you wrap up the leftovers, it’s easy to figure out what food is going into a frittata, tacos, or a soup tomorrow. But what about that leftover wine? Sure, you could take the instant gratification route and chug it right down, but why not take the long view and make an elixir that you can use in future weeks and months? Something that will elevate your dishes and spark your taste buds? 

Try making your own vinegar. The flavor will be richer than anything you can find in the supermarket, and total hands-on time will be under 10 minutes. 

The method is simple: First you need to procure “mother.” Similar in appearance (but not the same as) to a kombucha-birthing SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), “mother of vinegar” is a combination of cellulose and acetic acid-making bacteria. Unpasteurized vinegar is a source of mother, or you can buy it at beer- and wine-making stores, which sell mothers made specifically for red wine, white wine, or malt vinegars. Pour leftover white or red wine (or even leftover beer) into a jar (I like a quart-sized Mason jar, but if you have a small barrel, use it, by all means), add the mother, cover the mouth of the jar with cheesecloth, and wait.

Over the course of a few months, the mother will “eat” the alcohol in the wine, turning it into acetic acid. Occasionally, you can dip a drinking straw under the mother and pull out a small quantity of vinegar to taste. When it tastes acidic, with no whiff of alcohol, your vinegar is ready. Strain out the mother and use it to start a new batch of vinegar. (If your vinegar tastes too sharp, dilute it with water until it tastes right to you.)

Vinegar should be stored airtight (to keep it from growing a new mother) and keeps indefinitely.