White wine vinegar is made from white wine. Wine made from grapes is most likely a European invention even though wine (and vinegar) has been made from other items in the Middle East since antiquity. The very first vinegars were most likely made by accident in Mesopotamia when a batch of wine got acetified by bacteria.
Vinegar made from wine — including white wine — is associated specifically with Mediterranean and Central European countries.
The oldest way to make wine vinegar, including white wine vinegar, is called the Orleans method with the name coming from the French town of Orleans. It is also called the slow process. White wine is poured into barrels and mixed with a bacterial culture called mother of vinegar. The barrels are kept in warm rooms to facilitate the conversion. France dominated vinegar production from the Middle Ages to the 17th century using this method. It was the first significant development in vinegar production since simply storing the wine until it became vinegar on its own.
Orleans became a center for wine distribution and storage because it was the closest city to Paris on the Loire River. Merchants would send their good wines to Paris and withhold bad ones for conversion to vinegar. Vinegar grew to become a major product in itself until French vinegar-makers (called vinaigriers in French) were able to form their own corporation and set prices.
Eventually, a faster production process came along to begin the slow destruction of the French wine vinegar industry. Louis Pasteur’s research into microbes led to a better understanding of their role in vinegar-making. New methods based on this knowledge ensured that vinegar could now be made cheaper in other parts of the world. By the beginning of the 20th century, there were only 3 French vinegar makers in existence.
White wine vinegar flavor profile
White wine vinegar is sometimes astringent and harsh compared to other wine vinegars but is still less harsh than white distilled vinegar. That said, there is a wide range of qualities with some varieties aged in wood and providing mellow, complex oaky notes.
Health benefits of white wine vinegar
You won’t get many vitamins or minerals from white wine vinegar. Any that it provides will only be present in trace amounts. That said, it can provide some nutritional value from:
- Polyphenols: White wine vinegar contains polyphenols with antioxidant properties.
White wine vinegar may help to treat or prevent:
- Cancer: Studies suggest that white wine vinegar shows the potential for slowing the growth of certain tumors and preventing others’ formation.
- High blood pressure: White wine vinegar may lower blood pressure, according to research. As a result, it may have benefits for heart health and diabetes prevention as well.
White wine is a staple of French cooking and is used mostly for vinaigrettes and classic French sauces. It is required for Hollandaise and Bearnaise sauces and is a popular source of acidity in mayonnaise. It shows up in beurre blanc and is commonly used in pickling vegetables and as a part of the braising liquid for meats.
White wine vinegar may also be used when you want a colorless vinegar that is not as acidic as white distilled vinegar. Use it in floral vinegars so that it can take on the color of the flowers.