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The best wine vinegar is typically aged for an extensive amount of time, and does not contain any additives. This is true for all types of wine vinegars, including red, white, champagne, and balsamic. In order to choose the best one, you will need to consider what you need it for, in addition to the methods that were used to create the vinegar in the first place. Red wine vinegar can be a great choice for deglazing roasting pans, or making vinaigrette, while white and champagne vinegars can be good for pickling, and as a component in sauces for chicken and fish dishes. If you are looking for a wine vinegar to use with oil as a condiment to dip bread in, then balsamic can be a very good choice.
All of the different types of wine vinegar are made in the same general way, though the aging process may differ, as can the initial grapes that are used. Red grapes are used to make red wine vinegar, while white wine and champagne vinegars are made with varieties of white grapes or grapes that have had the skins removed. The grapes are fermented into wine, which can be turned into vinegar immediately or allowed to age. If you would like to choose the highest quality wine vinegars, they are typically made of aged wine. These high quality wine vinegars are often aged after the alcohol has been turned into acetic acid as well.
Since each kind of wine vinegar has a unique flavor profile, the best type can be different for each situation. If you are looking for a vinegar to use in deglazing, then a red wine variety is typically the best choice. Red wine vinegars can also make a good base for vinaigrettes, if you include ingredients such as shallots and mustard. This will typically result in a bold flavor, unlike vinaigrettes made from other kinds of vinegar.
If you are pickling, then there are a number of different types of vinegars that can work well. Industrially produced white vinegar that is made from pure grain alcohol can even do the job, though other options typically provide better flavor profiles. White wine and champagne vinegars are often a good choice, since they tend to have delicate flavors that can add complexity to whatever you are pickling without being overpowering. These vinegars are often well suited to sauces as well, especially if you are preparing fish or chicken dishes.
Another type of wine-based vinegar you may want to consider in certain circumstances is balsamic. This type of vinegar is kept in a variety of different casks during a lengthy aging process, which imparts a dark color and rich flavor. Other products are labeled as balsamic vinegar, but owe their color and flavor to additives such as grape juice concentrates and caramelized sugar. If you want a tasty vinegar to dip bread in, or drizzle over a steak, then a properly aged balsamic will often be your best choice.
@Terrificli -- I am no expert, but I would guess our old friends supply and demand have a lot to do with it. Balsamic vinegar isn't exactly a new innovation, but it got very popular almost overnight and everyone wanted it. Because it takes time to make that stuff, demand outstripped the supply.
Now, the supply has caught up and prices have dropped in line with it.
But, that may be only part of the picture. The other part may be that ways have been made to more efficiently mass produce balsamic vinegar. When production costs drop, sales prices tend to drop, too.
Again, all of that is only a guess, but it makes logical sense (I think). You will notice, by the way, there are some balsamic vinegars that are still very expensive. The price hasn't dropped on all of them, then.
Funny thing about balsamic vinegar. That stuff used to cost an arm and a leg. Now, you can pick it up for a reasonable price. In fact, some decent balsamic wine vinegar costs just a little bit more than a good red wine vinegar.
I wonder what has caused the price to drop so much? Balsamic vinegar used to be in that luxury price range but that has changed.
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