So, your recipe asks for white wine vinegar, but all you have is white vinegar (or vice versa). What do you do? You google whether there are any differences between the two! 😄
SHORT ANSWER: Even though white vinegar and white wine vinegar have some similar characteristics, they are not exactly the same.
So, what is the biggest difference between the two?
White wine vinegar is made by fermenting white wine, whereas white vinegar is made from water (about 90-95%) and acetic acid (about 5-10%).
If you’re interested in learning more about the differences between these two types of vinegar and how to use them as substitutes, you’ll find it explained in detail below!
White Vinegar Vs White Wine Vinegar
From the fermentation process to price, here are the main differences between white vinegar and white wine vinegar:
1. Fermentation process
White vinegar is made from a solution of water and ethanol (alcohol), which is fermented by acetic acid bacteria to produce acetic acid.
The fermentation* process for white vinegar is a two-step process. The first step is the production of ethanol from a source of sugar or starch (such as corn or wheat). The second step is the conversion of ethanol to acetic acid.
White wine vinegar, as the name suggests, is made from white wine. The wine is first fermented by yeast to produce ethanol, and then the ethanol is further fermented by acetic acid bacteria to produce acetic acid.
*Fermentation is a process where microorganisms break down organic substances like sugars into simpler compounds like alcohol, CO2, and organic acids, without oxygen.
White vinegar and white wine vinegar are made of different ingredients. Here are the basic ingredients of these two types of vinegar:
• White vinegar*: water, ethanol, acetic acid.
• White wine vinegar**: water, white wine, acetic acid bacteria.
*Some manufacturers may add small amounts of flavorings or coloring agents to their vinegar.
**Also contains small amounts of residual sugars and other compounds from the grapes used to make the wine.
3. Acidity level
The acidity level is a byproduct of fermenting different kinds of vinegar. In general, white vinegar has an acidity level of around 5%. This means that white vinegar contains about 50 grams of acetic acid per liter.
White wine vinegar has an acidity level of around 6% meaning it contains about 60 grams of acetic acid per liter. As you can see, this is slightly higher than the acidity of white vinegar.
White vinegar is called “white” because it’s clear and colorless. White vinegar has a high degree of purity because it’s made from a solution of water and ethanol that has been fermented and then distilled to remove impurities.
White wine vinegar is typically light yellow to gold in color because it is produced through the fermentation of white wine, which has a light yellow or golden color.
The aroma of white vinegar is more straightforward and one-dimensional, whereas the aroma of white wine vinegar is more complex and nuanced:
• White vinegar has a strong, sharp, and acidic aroma due to the high concentration of acetic acid. This aroma can be unpleasant to some people (my friend Tara agrees with me 😆).
• White wine vinegar has a more delicate and complex aroma that is characterized by its sourness and fruitiness.
White vinegar and white wine vinegar have distinct tastes due to their different production methods and ingredients.
White vinegar has a sharp, sour, and acidic taste that can be quite pungent and overpowering. White wine vinegar has a more complex, tangy, and fruity taste with a subtle sweetness. The flavor of wine plays a role in its taste profile.
Vinegar has a wide range of uses and can be used for both cooking and as a cleaning agent. My mum taught me that white vinegar is one of the most useful ingredients in the kitchen (thanks mum! 😄).
Apart from being a great cleaning agent, you can use white vinegar in salad dressings, sauces, marinades, and more. You can also use it as a natural weed killer in gardening.
White wine vinegar is commonly used in salad dressings, sauces, and marinades, as well as to pickle vegetables and fruit. Additionally, you can use white wine vinegar as a substitute for Chinese black vinegar, lemon juice, or cream of tartar in some baking recipes.
Both white vinegar and white wine vinegar are good substitutes for Champagne vinegar.
PRO TIP: Be careful when boiling vinegar if the area in which you are boiling it is not ventilated and if the concentration of acetic acid in the vinegar is too high.
Generally, white vinegar is less expensive than white wine vinegar because it’s easier to make.
Depending on the brand and location, a 32-ounce bottle of white vinegar costs anywhere from $1 to $3, while a similar-sized bottle of white wine vinegar costs between $3 to $6.
Can You Substitute White Vinegar For White Wine Vinegar In Cooking?
Even though they have different flavors and aromas, you can use these two types of vinegar as substitutes in some recipes where the flavor profile is not critical (e.g. salads, pickling, marinades…).
Here are some tips for substituting white vinegar for white wine vinegar and vice versa.
If you’re substituting white vinegar for white wine vinegar:
• Use slightly less white vinegar than white wine vinegar, as white vinegar is more acidic and has a sharper taste.
• Add a pinch of sugar to the recipe to balance out the sharpness of the white vinegar.
• Dilute the white vinegar with a small amount of water to reduce its acidity and mellow its flavor.
If you’re substituting white wine vinegar for white vinegar:
• Use slightly more white wine vinegar than white vinegar because white wine vinegar is less acidic and has a more delicate flavor.
• Add a pinch of salt or sugar to the recipe to enhance the flavor of the white wine vinegar.
• Keep in mind that white wine vinegar has a slightly fruity flavor that could affect the overall taste of your dish.
Wrapping It Up
The main differences between white vinegar and white wine vinegar are their production method and flavor. These two types of vinegar can be used interchangeably in some recipes where the flavor profile is not that important.
I’ll finish this comparison with one inspiring quote that unites white vinegar and white wine vinegar:
“Vinegar has the power to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, adding brightness, depth, and complexity to even the simplest of dishes.” – Michael Ruhlman