The generic red & white wine vinegar you have in your cupboard are made from any generic blend of red and white wines. However, if you look for it, you can find very specific varieties of vinegar that are based in specific grape varietals. These make cooking with vinegar a hell of a lot more interesting. Keep reading to get ideas on how to use anything from Champagne to Cabernet vinegar in your next meal.
The word vinegar actually comes from the Old French words wine (vin) and sour (egre). It quite literally is sour wine, or wine that has “gone bad”. If you leave an opened bottle of Pinot Noir out on your counter for too long, guess what – you’ll have Pinot Noir vinegar. Yup, it really does work like that.
You can have a Pinot Noir vinegar or a Chardonnay vinegar. There are even Rosé and Champagne vinegar. So how should you be using these different varieties of vinegar now that you’re aware this world exists? Below are my favorite uses for a variety of red, white, rosé, and Champagne vinegar.
1. Champagne Vinegar
Much like the wine, Champagne vinegar brings some luxury to your cooking. It can be dry, yet fruity with notes of pear and apple. Or, it can lean more floral and herbal. It’s a versatile component in a classic Dijon vinaigrette and light, crisp salad dressings.
I used Champagne vinegar for a savory melon salad recipe last month.
Pair it with: Roasted potatoes, grilled artichoke, or a simple frisée salad with radishes
2. Chardonnay Vinegar
Chardonnay vinegar is a white wine vinegar like Champagne, but can be a slightly sweeter option. It has the classic Chardonnay flavor notes of apples, pears and peaches. Just like the wine can be rich and buttery, the vinegar tends to be low in acidity as well.
Pair it with: Mediterranean-inspired dishes, roasted veg like carrots and sweet potatoes
3. Rosé Vinegar
Ahh, rosé – just when you thought you heard of rosé-everything, I’m here to tell you there is even rosé vinegar for you to cultishly embrace. Just like the wine, its vinegar counterpart is extremely versatile. Its body and flavor falls between white and red wine vinegar. Anywhere you might reach for lemon or lime juice, mix it up by choosing a rosé vinegar for some tart yet floral fruitiness.
Pair it with: Pasta salads, asparagus, Spring peas, and fennel salad
4. Pinot Noir Vinegar
Seriously, don’t buy generic red wine vinegar anymore after reading this blog post. Starting on the light-bodied end of the spectrum, Pinot Noir vinegar is fruity and full-bodied. Unlike the white wine varieties which are best for light and crisp veg-based meals, Pinot Noir vinegar can stand up to heartier dishes. It’s not as powerful as a deep red vinegar or balsamic, so it won’t overwhelm.
Pair it with: Grain-based salads (like farro or barley), or drizzled over avocado
5. Cabernet Sauvignon Vinegar
Cabs are known for high-tannin and full-bodied flavor, and the vinegar version is just as powerful. Flavors of caramel and cherry with subtle smokiness. Use it in sauces and dressings for your most robust meals.
Pair it with: Shiitake mushrooms, use it to bolster sauces, and in dressings for the darkest leafy green salads (spinach, kale, etc.)
6. Balsamic Vinegar
No, you can’t quite order a bottle of “Balsamic wine” but it’s probably the world’s most beloved vinegar. So what is it made from? Pressed white Trebbiano and red Lambrusco grapes, followed by a minimum of 12 years of barrel aging. There are plenty of commercial and highly-industrialized imitators of true traditional balsamic vinegar. These mimic the real stuff, but use coloring and additives and definitely don’t reach the minimum aging.
Pair it with: Strawberries, pears with bleu cheese, caprese salad, and if you’re daring – gelato