How do you make homemade red wine vinegar?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

How do you make homemade red wine vinegar?

—Tom, Antioch, Calif.

Dear Tom,

Making vinegar is a great way to use leftover wine! There are two basic ways to make red wine vinegar: you can either purchase a commercial vinegar "mother" (available where wine- and beer-making supplies are sold) and follow the directions given to you, or you can let nature take its course. Personally, I'm a "let nature take its course" kind of wine advice columnist. The first time I tried to make vinegar, I got more flies than anything else. But then I got some good advice and made some really terrific stuff—it really tasted fresh and had more snap than what I buy in stores.

First, find a wide-mouthed jar, jug or crock and pour your wine in until the container is about 2/3 or 3/4 full (a large surface area is good). Higher-alcohol wines can inhibit the activity of the necessary bacteria, so I tend to dilute the wine with a bit of water. If you're a fan of no-added-sulfite wines, even better, as excess sulfites can also make it more difficult to convert alcohol to acetic acid.

Cover the jar, but don't make an airtight seal—some cheesecloth secured with a rubber band would work, or just partially cover it with a lid. Find a place that's out of direct sunlight but still warm. Give the container a good shake once or twice a week. (Be careful not to spill it!) And wait. It will take about two weeks to two months for your wine to turn into vinegar ... or for you to figure out it's not working.

Don't be frightened by your vinegar "mother," which looks like a gooey, gelatinous blob that kind of sits on top of the liquid (it will eventually sink to the bottom and another mother will take its place). As you start siphoning off your new vinegar, you can add fresh wine to the existing vinegar, and you'll notice that within a shorter amount of time—another week or so—it will also have turned to vinegar. Enjoy!

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

What's the difference between Port and Sherry?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, explains what Port and Sherry have in …

Jan 17, 2022

Why does wine taste better at a restaurant than it does at home?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why going out to eat changes the way we …

Jan 10, 2022

Dr. Vinny's Top 5 Questions of 2021

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, revisits some of the most popular …

Jan 5, 2022

Is the price listed on wine reviews the retail price?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains where the price in a Wine Spectator wine review …

Jan 3, 2022

What’s your opinion of wine aerators?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how aerators work and whether or not they should …

Dec 27, 2021

Is it safe to drink a glass of wine that was left out overnight?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert Dr. Vinny explain what happens when wine is over-expo…

Dec 20, 2021