The Differences Between Wine Vinegar and Balsamic Vinegar

Posted by John Arlotta on

Vinegar is a pantry staple in every kitchen. It’s right up there as one of the big four pantry staples, including oil, salt, and pepper. It’s an extremely versatile necessity in home kitchens everywhere. Whether it’s whisked into a salad dressing, drizzled on a dish as a finisher, or used to marinate meats, vinegar brightens and lifts every dish. Vinegar is an acidic liquid that is produced through the fermentation process. There are so many kinds on the market that it can be confusing to know which works best for various dishes. No two are more confusing than wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar. Here are some of the main differences, similarities, and some common substitutes.

What is the Difference Between Wine and Balsamic Vinegars?

Even though both wine and balsamic vinegar are flavorful and delicious, they are made differently and provide different flavor results for your culinary adventures. Balsamic vinegar is made from grape must, which is a juice made from pressing the grapes, seeds, and stems. The pressed juice is boiled, fermented, and acidified in barrels for years. Even though both types of vinegar are made from grapes, one of the biggest differences between wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar is that wine vinegar stops at the wine stage, and balsamic vinegar does not.

Wine Vinegars

Wine vinegar is made from wine. The wine is fermented and oxidized into acid, and it has a light, fruity flavor. Stainless steel vats are used for the distilling process. The vats, or acetates, expose the ethanol that is found in wine to oxygen. The result is acetic acid which is then diluted with water to between 5 and 7% acidity. Oftentimes, wine vinegars are crafted from a blend of wines. 

White wine vinegar consists of oxidized white wine, and red wine vinegar consists of oxidized red wine. The distinct taste is one of the most noticeable differences between wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar. And secondly, they differ in color. Red wine vinegar will add subtle shades of pink to dishes it is added to. White wine vinegar will not. When it comes to flavor, white wine vinegar is a bit more delicate and lighter. The flavor of red wine vinegar tends to be stronger and savory.

Uses for Red and White Wine Vinegar

Red and white wine vinegars are often used to enhance and improve the flavors of different types of dishes from a variety of cuisines. Here are a few of the most common uses for wine vinegar. 

  • They are used in a variety of dressings
  • Drizzle them over salads 
  • White and red wine vinegars are used for marinades
  • Add them to smoothies
  • They make a wonderful addition to Italian dishes such as lasagna

Balsamic Vinegars

Balsamic Vinegars

Balsamic vinegar presents a complex and full-flavor experience. They are extremely versatile and can be used in a wide variety of recipes. Since balsamic vinegar is made from fermented grapes, it develops a dark, reddish hue. This is also the source of its complex, sweet flavor. They are barrel-aged for at least 12 years and can be allowed to ferment for up to 25 years. The longer balsamic vinegars age, the thicker and more flavorful they become. 

White balsamic vinegar is milder than its red counterpart, and it is created by pressure-cooking wine musts instead of simmering them. This keeps them from caramelizing or gaining any extra color. White balsamic is a great choice if you don’t want to add color to a recipe. It will also provide a slightly less sweet, cleaner flavor. Over time, white balsamic vinegar will succumb to oxidation. This natural process will darken the vinegar, and it will transition from gold to amber in color. This doesn’t affect its flavor. For those who would like to ensure a clear appearance, it needs to be consumed within a few months of purchase. 

Uses for Red and White Balsamic Vinegars

white balsamic vinegars

You can incorporate red and white balsamic vinegars into your favorite recipes. Here are some of the main ways to use these two types of vinegar.

  • Use them to create tasty salad dressings
  • Add a finishing flavor to roasted vegetables
  • Top off a basil tomato salad with balsamic vinegar
  • Create marinades for meat by pairing them with olive oil and garlic

Can You Substitute Balsamic Vinegar for Wine Vinegar?

wine vinegar

Even though balsamic and wine vinegar are not the same, if you find yourself in a pinch, it’s reasonable to substitute one for the other. But you’ll need to make some slight modifications to your recipe.  If your recipe calls for wine vinegar and you’ve only got balsamic vinegar on hand, you’ll need to make the recipe a little less sweet. You might try to remove sugar from the recipe to help even out the sweetness provided by the balsamic vinegar. You may also be able to use a little less vinegar than what the recipe calls for.

If your recipe calls for balsamic vinegar and you only have red or white wine vinegar on hand, add a little sweetener like honey or sugar to even out the taste. You can also mix one tablespoon of wine vinegar with two teaspoons of maple syrup to sweeten it naturally. Adding a touch of sweetness to wine vinegar can get it pretty close to the round and complex flavor of balsamic.

There are a few suitable substitutions for wine vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, or sherry vinegar. However, balsamic vinegar doesn’t have as many close substitutes. You can use a balsamic vinaigrette if you are in a pinch. While it’s not ideal, you can use soy sauce if you don’t have any balsamic vinegar in your pantry. 

Now that you know the difference between balsamic, white, and red wine vinegar choices, it’s time to stock your pantry. When you need wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar, you want to know you are using the best. Arlotta Food Studio is your source for high-quality vinegars including wine vinegar and balsamic varieties. 

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