Red wine vinegar: benefits, side effects and uses

June 9, 2015 at 4:13 PM

This article features some great information about red wine vinegar. You will learn how to make it, how to use it, what are its benefits (and side effects). Furthermore you will find here some alternatives to red wine vinegar and some practical and actionable recipes for you to try.

Red wine vinegar is a sour liquid consisting mainly of acetic acid and water. Red wine vinegar is mainly used as a cooking ingredient to add a blast of taste to the dish. Vinegar is derived from a French word “vin aigre” that literally means “sour wine”. Red wine is fermented by bacterial activity till it gets sour to make red wine vinegar. Red wine vinegar is especially popular in Mediterranean countries and is a must have ingredient in a French kitchen. Red wine vinegar has many varying qualities and the color ranges from pale pink to maroon, depending on the type of wine used. The longer the red wine vinegar is allowed to age, the better it tastes. Red wine vinegar can be aged up to two years. The better quality red wine vinegar exhibits a complex mallow tangy, rounded taste and it has been aged for several months. The cheaper variety of red wine vinegar has a sharp tart taste and it is formed rapidly by brewing red wine with vinegar soaked beechwood shavings.

Manufacture of red wine vinegar

The raw material for red wine vinegar is a variety of diluted alcohol products. The wine vinegars are mostly made by the submerged fermentation methods. Below is a simplified brief overview of wine manufacture.

  1. Acetators are large stainless steel tanks that are present in vinegar production plants. These tanks are fitted with centrifugal pumps at the bottom of the tank to pump air bubbles into it.
  2. The air bubbles from the pump stirs the alcohol in the tank and the pump also introduces acetozym nutrients into the tank so that the acetobacters on the oxygen bubbles can grow. These bacteria are responsible for converting wine into vinegar by fermentation. The temperature of tank is kept between 80 and 100 °F.
  3. Within few hours, the wine is transformed into vinegar. The contents of the tank are transferred into a filtering machine. Stainless steel plates press the vinegar through filter paper to remove any sediment. The sediment makes up about 3% of the total content and is flushed into a drain. The vinegar moves to the dilution station.

Uses of red wine vinegar

Red wine vinegar is mainly used in the Central and Southern Europe. It is used in a variety of dishes to balance the flavors and to add an extra burst of flavor. Following are the few culinary uses of red wine vinegar:

  • Marinades: It is acidic sauce in which meats, fish or vegetables are soaked to induce flavors or tenderize it. Red wine vinegar, due to its acidic nature, denatures proteins and tenderizes the meat and it also adds another level of flavor to the dish.
  • Salad dressings: It is a sauce which consists of vinegar, oil and herbs to add flavor to a bland salad. Red wine vinegar, due to its acidic nature, emulsifies smoothly with oil and form a decadent salad dressing. Red wine vinegar also adds a fruity taste that just stimulates your taste buds.
  • Pickling: It is a process of expanding the lifespan of vegetables by either immersion in vinegar or anaerobic fermentation. When vegetables are pickled in red wine vinegar, it adds bitter sweet taste to them and helps tenderize the vegetables.
  • Baking: Red wine vinegar can be added in meringue to make it fluffier. Red wine vinegar helps the bread rise when added to dough.
  • Vinaigrette: It is a sauce that is made with vinegar, oil, seasoning and herbs. It can be used in a variety of ways like salad dressing or to add a bit of extra flavor to any dish.    


Health benefits of red wine vinegar

Red wine vinegar not only adds a blast of flavor to your dish, but also helps you stay healthy and fit. Red wine vinegar has many beneficial effect on the human body. As a matter of fact, red wine vinegar has been used in folk remedies to treat many ailments. Red wine vinegar has absolutely no cholesterol, sodium or fat and is packed full of antioxidants.

  • Diabetes: It is a condition characterized by hyperglycemia (high blood glucose). The symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst, increased hunger, frequent urination and lethargy. Before hypoglycemic agents (antidiabetes drugs) were discovered, vinegar was used to manage the symptoms of diabetes. When same amount of red wine vinegar is added to carbohydrates, it reduces there glycemic index. The use of red wine vinegar is included in many diet plans that are constructed for diabetics. It is also believed that drinking a spoon of red wine vinegar before eating something sweet would not increase the glucose level as much if you eat the sweet without drinking red wine vinegar before it.
  • Cholesterol: High level of cholesterol is associated with many heart diseases like heart attack, angina, and heart failure. Red wine vinegar has zero cholesterol and it also helps reduce the values of serum cholesterol and triglycerides. Research has shown that people who eat vinegar and oil salad dressings are at a lower risk of ischemic heart disease (1).
  • Diet control: Multiple trials have concluded that vinegar with food increases the satiety (the feeling of fullness). Due to this, the amount of food consumed is considerably reduced. Taking red wine vinegar on a regular basis may prevent metabolic syndrome in obese people. Adding red wine vinegar and oil salad dressings to a salad is a great incentive to eat more salads and improve your health.
  • Body fat: Red wine vinegar contains acetic acid, which according to research, reduces body fat content (2). A study was conducted in which participants took a supplement of 15 ml of red wine vinegar over a course of 12 weeks. Results showed that by the end of this period, the participants had lower body Wight, lower body mass index and smaller waist circumference. So, if you’re looking for something to lose some pounds, red wine vinegar is worth the try!
  • Antioxidants: There are molecules in the body called free radicals that produce oxidation and harm to the body cells. Antioxidants are naturally present in our body and in many foods as well, they prevent the free radicals from causing any cell damage. Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant that is present in red wine vinegar. Research shows that resveratrol counters the harmful effects of high calorie diet. Resveratrol fights the free radicals in our body and helps prevent many disease. By diseases we mean a very long list of diseases like heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, metabolic syndromes, mood disturbances, inflammatory conditions and even cancer!
  • Trace nutrients: A single tablespoon of red wine vinegar does not provide a huge dose of any nutrient, but it does contain trace amounts of most of the nutrients. Red wine vinegar contains trace amounts of iron and calcium. Iron helps the formation of new red blood cells and helps prevent anemia. Calcium is needed for stronger bones.

Tips for cooking with red wine vinegar

Red wine vinegar is an excellent vinegar that adds a dash of flavor and color to many dishes. Working with red wine vinegars is easy but at the beginning everything seems complicated, so here are a few tips on how and where to use red wine vinegar:

  • Vinegar, due to its acidic nature, breaks down proteins, so using red wine vinegar to marinade and braise will help to tenderize the meat.
  • Cut down on your calories, red wine vinegar is less pungent than other vinegars so it can be used in higher ration and reduce the oil content in a salad dressing.
  • Vinegar reacts with metals like aluminum, iron and copper. So, when cooking with red wine vinegar it is important to remember to use stainless steel or glass pots and utensils.
  • Peeling hard boil eggs is easier and faster if you add a table spoon of vinegar in the boiling water.
  • Vinegar can reduce the bitter in a dish and balance the flavors.
  • Adding a dash of vinegar in a pot of water improves the color of any vegetable.
  • Close the lid after use and store the bottle of red wine vinegar in cool and dry place.   

Substitutes for red wine vinegar

If you are in the mood to make a recipe with red wine vinegar and you don’t have a bottle in hand, there are a few substitutes (alternative products) that you are bound to have at home. These substitutes add the same flavor profile as red wine vinegar and contain the same acidic content necessary for your recipe. The substitutes for red wine vinegar can either be other vinegars or others ingredients that mimic the same flavors (3).

Other vinegar substitutes

  • White wine vinegar: White wine vinegar has the same acidic level as red wine vinegar so it does not disturb the cooking process when used in stews sauces and marinades in place of red wine vinegar. White wine vinegar is also made by fermenting wine. The French mostly prefer white wine vinegar for cooking.
  • Balsamic vinegar: It is a common substitute of red wine vinegar in Italian food. Balsamic vinegar is a taste sweeter and milder than red wine vinegar.
  • Rice wine vinegar: It has the same bitter acidic taste as red wine vinegar, but the flavor is more mallow than red wine vinegar. To balance the flavors of the dish more amount of rice wine vinegar is needed than red wine vinegar.
  • Sherry vinegar: It is preferred in most Spanish recipes. Its taste is milder and sweeter than red wine vinegar.  So to properly balance the flavors on a dish you will need to reduce the level of sweeteners.
  • Apple cider vinegar: It is gives the same fruity taste as red wine vinegar but it is more potent. So lesser amount of apple cider vinegar is used as compared to red wine vinegar.
  • Other substitutes: There are many other substitutes for red wine vinegar except other vinegars. These ingredients provide almost the same level of acidity and flavor as red wine vinegar.
    • Red wine: Dry red wine has the same acidic content and flavor profile so it is a suitable substitutes. But it may not be acidic enough to make a salad dressing emulsion.
    • Lemon juice: It provides the same level of acidity to the dish although the flavor profile might not be all that similar.
    • Tamarind paste: It has the ability to denature proteins in meat, so it can be used to substitute red wine vinegar in marinades.

Homemade vs store bought red wine vinegar

Everything these days is available in the markets but some things simply taste better when they are made at home. There is a wide variety of red wine vinegar in the market of varying qualities but if you have got time and patience then making your own red wine vinegar is definitely worth it. Most of the red wine vinegar available in the market is made rapidly so the taste is inferior and the red wine vinegar of superior taste that has been aged is too expensive for everyday cooking. Homemade red wine vinegar is easy to make, as it is a blend of basic science and cooking knowledge. Homemade red wine can be aged as long as you want and so you get the desired flavor profile that you like. Homemade red wine vinegar is more subtle than store bought and due to its sparkling quality it not only adds flavor to the dish but also enhances the appearance of food. It can be used in sauces or marinades. Homemade red wine vinegar makes a better emulsion with oil that leads to an excellent salad dressing.

How to make red wine vinegar at home

The thing about homemade red wine vinegar is that once you get a taste for it, you will never go back to the store bought variety. Making red wine vinegar is a basic science. In the presence of oxygen, the acetobacters act on the alcohol and convert it into acetic acid. The acid along with the water from the wine forms vinegar. Following are the steps to make red wine vinegar at home:

  • Selecting “The Mother”: A blob of bacteria that helps ferment wine into vinegar is called “The Mother”. This blob of bacteria is put in the jar with the liquid you want to convert into vinegar. “The Mother” used depends upon the type of vinegar that you want to make.
  • Sterilization: Sterilize the jar in which you will make your red wine vinegar.
  • Adding liquid: When you buy “The Mother” it will come with instructions about how much wine to water ratio to use. For red wine, the ideal measurements are mixing 16 ounce of organic sulfite free wine with 8 ounce of water. This mixture is poured into the jar and “The Mother” is then added to the jar. This mixture is let to sit for about 3 to 6 months or longer if you like.
  • Decide the storage place: Before starting on your vinegar decide a place where you are going to put it to ferment and age because a vinegar in the making does not like to be moved. The place of storage should be warm, dark and with good air circulation. The temperature should not be too cold or hot otherwise the bacteria in “The Mother” will become inactive and the vinegar will not form.
  • Finish: How do you know that your vinegar is formed? The best identifier of vinegar is its smell. So the distinct fruity acidic smell of red wine vinegar will tell you when it’s done.

Red wine vinegar recipes

Salad dressings

Red wine vinegar salad dressings are the corner stone of vinaigrettes. Red wine vinegar has a fruity and acidic taste. Red wine vinegar not only adds flavor to the bland salad and makes it more appetizing but it also gives the vegetables a fresher look. This way you can have your daily fill of the tasty salad and you can stay in shape too! 

  1. Add ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil to ¼ cup of red wine vinegar in a jar.
  2. Add a pinch of salt and a dash of black pepper.
  3. Add half a teaspoon of freshly crushed garlic.
  4. Add any fresh or dried herbs of your choice.
  5. Now close the lid of the jar and shake well so that all the ingredients mix thoroughly together.
  6. Now pour the dressing on fresh greens, toss the salad and enjoy.

Marinade for chicken

Red wine vinegar is used to marinade chicken because it denatures the proteins and tenderizes the meat due to its acidic nature. Red wine vinegar also adds another complex layer to the dish that enhances the appeal of the dish. 

  1. Add ¼ cup of red wine vinegar in a bowl and a tablespoon of vegetable oil.
  2. Add minced garlic and Dijon mustard.
  3. Add pinch of salt and ½ teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper.
  4. Add ½ teaspoon of Italian seasoning and any herb that you like.
  5. Now stir all this thoroughly and place chicken filets in this marinade and rub it on the chicken.
  6. Leave the chicken in the marinade for 30 minutes so the meat tenderizes and the flavors are induced into it.
  7. Now lightly oil the pan and put it on slow heat. Now place your chicken filets on the pan and grill them.

Side effects of red wine vinegar

Red wine vinegar adds flavor to food and has many health benefits. But as it is said that even the excess of something good can be bad. Following are the few health hazards of consuming too much red wine vinegar:

  • Tooth decay: Red wine vinegar has an acidic nature and due to its presence the pH of the saliva in the mouth decreases (acidic). In order to maintain tooth integrity the pH must be alkaline. When the pH of saliva is acidic the minerals from the teeth leach out to balance the pH. This leads to decrease mineral content in the teeth and so the teeth weaken. The key here is moderation. If you’re drinking or using too much red wine vinegar, you may get tooth decay early.
  • Hypokalemia: Hypokalemia means lower than normal level of potassium in the bloodstream. Excessive red wine vinegar ingestion leads to hypokalemia. The exact pathophysiological behind hypokalemia due to excessive use of red wine vinegar is unknown. The symptoms of hypokalemia are weakness, muscle cramps and fatigue.
  • Osteoporosis: It is a condition in which your bones become weak and brittle and easily fracture. The most commonly associated fractures are of wrist, hip or spine. Osteoporosis occurs due to low calcium content in the bones. Calcium is the mineral that provides the bones strength. When excessive amount red wine vinegar is ingested, it interferes with absorption a calcium from the stomach. When no calcium is absorbed by the stomach than there will be low calcium in the blood, so to maintain the calcium level of blood the calcium from bones will leach. This leads to weakening of the bones. Although a small amount of red wine vinegar gives calcium to the body, but it starts to take away the calcium when taken in excess. So caution is advised.
  • Hyperreninemia: This is a condition in which there is elevated renin level in the bloodstream. Hyperreninemia leads to renal hypertension and that may lead to kidney dysfunction. This is an extremely rare adverse effect of red wine vinegar and only occurs if obscene amount of red wine vinegar is ingested over a prolonged period of time.
To conclude red wine vinegar is the best way to optimize the taste of your salads and other dishes. It gives you countless health benefits, too. But be careful as excess of anything can be bad. So, always use it in moderation without having to worry about the side effects! 
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Written by: Michal Vilímovský (EN)
Education: Physician
Article resources: See references within the article.
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Published: June 9, 2015 at 4:13 PM
Next scheduled update: June 9, 2017 at 4:13 PM
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