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Home > Glossary > Glossary S - Z > Vinegar > Types of Vinegars

Types of Vinegars

Rice Vinegar

Rice Vinegar


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Wine Vinegar
As with wine , these vinegars can be red or white. The quality is determined by the type of wine used. Fine vinegars come from fine wine , and are made the slow , traditional way in oak barrels. They are matured in wood for periods ranging from a few weeks to one to two years. Red wine vinegars are aged longer than those made from white wine. The very best wine vinegars are made in relatively small batches , have fine balance and subtle, complex flavour. They are characteristically rich and mellow.

Commercially produced wine vinegars are of an inferior quality , using average wine and faster production techniques that remove a lot of the more subtle flavours in the wine. Many commercially produced wines are , none-the-less very good , and as with so many things , the price reflects the quality.

Champagne Vinegar
As to be expected , this vinegar is expensive , delicate , refined and gentle. Pale gold in colour , clear and bright. Wonderful stuff , but you wouldn't want to drink a glass of it on New Years Eve.

Sherry Vinegar
A very fine vinegar type. As with other wine vinegars , the best are very expensive and justifiably so. Sherry vinegars are made from a blend of wines , just like sherry , and are left to mature in the wood for a long time. They develop fat , rich flavour and a mellow complexity. Like traditional Balsamic vinegar , excellent Sherry vinegar occupies a special place outside the vinegar spectrum.

Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic made the traditional way is an outstanding vinegar. Dark , almost treacly in colour , it is very smooth and mellow with deep complexity and layers of subtle flavours. The very finest Balsamics are made from the the juice of Trebbiano grapes that has been boiled down to almost a syrup. This reduction goes through a first natural fermentation in wooden casks that produces alcohol. A second fermentation , with the aid of the acetobacter bacteria in the air , creates the acetic acid that is vinegar. This vinegar is then filtered into wooden casks and left to mature for anywhere from 10 to 30 years. Some for even longer. Some Balsamics mature in a succession of casks all made from a different type of wood , each type giving a another layer of flavour to the vinegar. It is this almost magical combination of wood , wine and time that makes traditionally made Balsamic vinegar such a rare and very expensive delight.

Historically , Balsamic vinegar originated in Modena; a town in northern Italy. Commercially made Balsamic vinegar is made in the region as well and while nowhere near the quality of the traditionally made vinegar , it is very good and markedly different from other wine vinegars. Though produced on a large scale , most commercial Balsamics are left to mature in wood for varying lengths of time and develop the basic characteristics of the traditionally made vinegar.

Malt Vinegar
Made from a beer-like brew using malted barley , this vinegar is made by much the same method as for commercially produced wine vinegars. Good malt vinegar is left to mature for some time before being bottled.It has a strong flavour and medium acidity. Suitable only as a condiment or for pickling.

Cider Vinegar
Made from cider or apple mash in the same way as malt vinegar. It has a sharp strong flavour at full strength and the better quality ones dilute well to reveal a delicate apple flavour. It has a warm , soft honey colour. Although usually sold filtered there is a growing belief that unfiltered organic cider vinegar is especially beneficial to over-all health. Used as a condiment and for pickling. Very good for pickling fruit. When diluted it can be used for salad dressing.

Rice Vinegar
Usually made from fermented rice or rice wine. Originating in China and Japan. Chinese rice vinegars are stronger than those of Japan and range in colour from colourless ,through various shades of red and several shades of brown. Compared to other types of vinegar Chinese and, especially , Japanese vinegars are very mild; almost sweet.

Japanese rice vinegar is very mild and mellow and ranges in colour from colourless to pale yellow. There are two distinct types of Japanese vinegar; one made from fermented rice and the other is made by adding rice vinegar to sake.

White Rice Vinegar
This is a colorless liquid, higher in vinegar content and more similar in flavour to regular vinegar (every time I taste it I immediately envision a plate of salty French fries doused in vinegar). Nonetheless, it is still less acidic and milder in flavour than regular vinegar. There is also a hint of sweetness that comes from the glutinous rice. White rice vinegar can be used in stir-fries, particularly sweet and sour dishes, and for pickling. The best brand is Pearl River Bridge.

Black Rice Vinegar
Black rice vinegar is very popular in southern China, where Chinkiang vinegar, the best of the black rice vinegars, is made. Normally black rice vinegar is made with glutinous or sweet rice, although millet or sorghum may be used instead. Dark in color, it has a deep, almost smoky flavour. One word of warning: the quality of black rice vinegars varies strongly. I recently tried a brand where the caramel and sugar overpowered all the other flavours. Gold Plum's Chinkiang vinegar, made with glutinous rice, water and salt, is generally considered to be the best. Black rice vinegar works well in braised dishes and as a dipping sauce. It can also serve as a substitute for balsamic vinegar.

Red Rice Vinegar
This is another vinegar that is dark colored, but lighter than black rice vinegar. In any event, you'll never get the two mixed up once you have a taste - red rice vinegar is an intriguing combination of tart and sweet. Red rice vinegar can be used as a substitute for black vinegar - just add a bit of sugar. It makes a very good dipping sauce, and you can also use it in noodle, soup and seafood dishes (you'll often find it in recipes for Hot and Sour and Shark's Fin Soup). Both Pearl River Bridge and Koon Chun from Hong Kong are good brands.

Distilled Vinegar
Colourless and very strong , it is too brutal for use in cooking but is ideal for pickling , cleaning glass and as a detergent/disinfectant.

Spirit Vinegar
This vinegar is distilled before the acetification process has finished and contains a small amount of alcohol which changes the flavour dimension. This is the strongest of all the vinegars and is used for the same purposes as distilled vinegar.

Flavoured Vinegar
Flavoured vinegars have been in use in different parts of the world for thousands of years , at least as far back as the Babylonians. Red , white and rice vinegars are the most commonly used , in which any variety or combination of flavouring agents are steeped. Imagination is the only limiting factor when it comes to making flavoured vinegars. The most common are those using herbs and spices, though flowers ,fruit and vegetables are other options.

Herb Vinegars
Herb vinegars are made by adding herbs or spices to cider or wine vinegar and then allowing the flavors to blend. Flavor and other characteristics vary greatly depending on the type of base vinegar and the particular herbs and spices added.

Fruit Vinegar
Fruit vinegar is often made from raspberries, blueberries or blackberries. The resulting products tend to be sweet and delicate in flavor and aroma and make a nice complement to fruits and many salads, or they can be used in salad dressings, such as raspberry vinaigrette.

Umeboshi Vinegar
Umeboshi vinegar is a pink brine with a deep cherry aroma and a fruity, sour flavor. It is a by-product produced when umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums) is made. Technically, it is not classified as a vinegar because it contains salt, but it is a good substitute for vinegar and salt in any recipe. It has a light, citric flavour and lends itself well to salad dressings and adding flavor to steamed vegetables.

Cane Vinegar
This vinegar is made from sugarcane and has a rich, slightly sweet flavour. Vinegar is essential in making pickles, mustards and vinaigrettes. It adds a jolt of flavour to numerous sauces, marinades and dressings, and to preparations such as sauerbraten, sweet and sour dishes and marinated herring. It is most commonly used in Philippine cooking.

Coconut Vinegar
Coconut vinegar is low in acidity, with a musty flavour and a unique aftertaste. It is used in many Thai dishes.

Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Vinegar
Produced from alcoholic and acetous fermentation of Cabernet Sauvignon wine. High quality and rich burgundy in color.

Chardonnay Wine Vinegar
The result of acetous fermentation of Chardonnay Wine. Distinctive flavors and aroma, light to medium gold in color.

Merlot Wine Vinegar
One of the best! Unique flavor and aroma, this wine vinegar is the result of Merlot wine natural acetous fermentation. High quality, dark red in color.

Pinot Noir Wine Vinegar
A rare wine product! Clear, bright and medium red in color, this vinegar has unique characteristics in flavors and aroma as the result from Pinot Noir wine acetous fermentation.

Zinfandel Wine Vinegar
Clear, bright, transparent product as the result of Zinfandel wine acetous fermentation.

Corn Sugar Vinegar
A result of the alcoholic and subsequent acetous fermentation of corn sugar with smooth, mild flavor. Distinctive amber color.


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What is Vinegar?
Types of Vinegars
How is Vinegar Made?
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