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The disappearance of white & red wine vinegar


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I've noticed that grocery store shelves are jam packed with balsamic vinegars and various herb and flavor infused vinegars and a couple of cider and rice wine vinegars but there's often only 1 or at most 2 red/white wine vinegars, often of questionable quality. What gives?

PS: I am a guy.

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I recently had the same problem trying to find apple cider vinegar. I usually buy a brand called Maille, and it was nowhere to be found. I ended up getting it at a Farmer's market, which was fine by me, as the quality is better. But still.....

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I've noticed it too but what I think is you're seeing a general move by grocery stores to reduce the number of vendors for one specific product. It seems that they are implementing this by reducing things down to just the top sellers in very specific categories.

The reason you are seeing 10-20 balsalmics is that there are probably variations in the product that someone making these decisions has deemed significant enough to constitute a separate product. For example, they may consider a 10 year and a 5 year balsalmic to be different. There are also all the different flavors like Rasberry Balsalmic etc...

I've noticed the same thing with flour, mayo, and even things like tortillas. My grocery used to carry 7 different brands of flour in 3-4 types per brand. Now they carry 3 brands(and one of the ones they got rid of was King Arthur!).

I think the whole thing is stupid. I'd rather have my pick of 5 different red wine vinegars, a product that I use nearly every day, than 5 different flavors of balsalmic that I'll never even try.

ETA: Walmart started this trend with their "Project Impact" that was partly concerned with reducing the number of vendors and products they stock. It wasn't really successful from a sales standpoint but apparently made a significant impact on cost. Others have followed suit.

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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I've noticed this too. I used to love to go into supermarkets when I traveled and look for regional variation in food -- say comparing a Piggly Wiggly in Georgia to something as mundane as an Albertson's on the west coast. Now, they are all starting to look the same across the US (and I would bet internationally).

The consolidation of our food supply into a few hands is happening quicker than I would like, leading to less variety and more homogeneity. I'm wondering at what point it will also lead to higher prices and monopolies.

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I totally agree. People are getting into trashy, low-quality balsamics and using them, essentially as sweetening rather than souring agents.

I'll take a cheap red wine vinegar anytime. (Actually, I prefer them even to proper aged balsamics - I think I've been completely turned off the balsamic flavor profile by the crappy cheap ones.)

As a side note: in NYC, at least, you can't even get oil and vinegar on your hero sandwich anymore without it being "balsamic." The real Italian places like Faicco's, and (RIP) Italian Food Market switched over in the '80s during the balsamic revolution, and probably can't even remember that they used to use red wine vinegar. Cheaper places still have the latter, but the rest of their ingredients are crap.

</rant> sorry, this whole balsamic thing drives me nuts.

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I've also noticed the proliferation of "specialty" vinegars and a few brands of regular red and white wine vinegars have been demoted to bottom shelves or disappeared entirely.

I personally haven't bought any for years because I make my own wine vinegars, red, white and rosé, somewhat because I am frugal but mostly because I like the flavor better.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I tried making my own from ends of bottles of wine, using the advice from The Art Of Eating.

However it quickly developed a mold cap that grossed out my partner and that was the end of it. It did smell rather awful.

Same thing happened to me. For my second go-round, I used the instructions in Ideas in Food, which involves starting with a live cider vinegar as a culture. Not great if you're a purist, since the results are a hybrid wine-cider vinegar, but once it's going, you can keep topping it up with pure wine, so eventually the cider is diluted right out. I accidentally killed mine, so I really need to start another batch sometime...

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I'm wondering whether this is a strictly NA phenomenon. I know I can find at least one form of wine vinegar in pretty much any local supermarket (and I'm not in Copenhagen, either), and I've noticed it being as much in evidence as ever in Italy.

Anyone outside of North America notice a reduced availability of wine vinegar?

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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I tried making my own from ends of bottles of wine, using the advice from The Art Of Eating.

However it quickly developed a mold cap that grossed out my partner and that was the end of it. It did smell rather awful.

Same thing happened to me. For my second go-round, I used the instructions in Ideas in Food, which involves starting with a live cider vinegar as a culture. Not great if you're a purist, since the results are a hybrid wine-cider vinegar, but once it's going, you can keep topping it up with pure wine, so eventually the cider is diluted right out. I accidentally killed mine, so I really need to start another batch sometime...

When I started mine, several years ago, I bought the "mothers" from a home wine-making shop. Since then I've kept them going with an occasional addition of new wine.

I have them in containers with spigots so I can draw the vinegar from the bottom without disturbing the mother that floats on the top.

The spigots have to be either all plastic or stainless steel - the decorative brass ones must not be used with acidic liquids.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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When I started mine, several years ago, I bought the "mothers" from a home wine-making shop. Since then I've kept them going with an occasional addition of new wine.

I called my local wine-making shops and they laughed at me: "Why would we stock a product that could spoil the rest of our inventory?"

The impression I get, though, is that wine-making and home-brewing supply stores in Canada and the US are very different from each other, so YMMV.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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Here's one online source in Massachusetts.

This one in Pennsylvania.

I recently started a new batch with mead, using the white wine vinegar starter from Leeners.

The latter will take a few months to develop but I'm hoping for a result similar to honey vinegar I tried last year.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I tried making my own from ends of bottles of wine, using the advice from The Art Of Eating.

However it quickly developed a mold cap that grossed out my partner and that was the end of it. It did smell rather awful.

you sure that wasn't the mother? I remember getting an acetone smell before my wine turned to vinegar.

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I lucked out and found a small couple gallon wood barrel in my grandfathers basement that he made vinegar in, back in the 1930s,It still has stuff in the wood that allows for making vinegar without adding anything except the wine,I just finished a couple gallons from a batch of cabernet that I made back in the 80's and found the carboy in the darkroom in the basement,its been in the barrel for a month or so, and its about ready to bottle and use,,it came out really nice..

Bud

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I tried making my own from ends of bottles of wine, using the advice from The Art Of Eating.

However it quickly developed a mold cap that grossed out my partner and that was the end of it. It did smell rather awful.

you sure that wasn't the mother? I remember getting an acetone smell before my wine turned to vinegar.

I'm not sure it wasn't the mother, and it did have an acetone smell, so maybe I just needed to keep at it.

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The difference between mold and mother is pretty easy to see, I think. For one thing, the mother doesn't float on top of the liquid; it sits just underneath the surface. For another, mold is green or grey-green; the mother is not. I can post pictures of moldy vinegar if you like, but I don't recommend it. :blink:

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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This site has some good advice and a photo of vinegar mother. It isn't pretty but you don't have to look at it for it to do its job.

Gang of Pour.

This is my red wine v container - it's a 3-gallon container with a cover that is not airtight - you have to allow for air to get into the container as the process requires some oxygen.

HPIM4656.JPG

This is the top of the contents. When the cover is removed, the vinegar aroma is strong.

HPIM4655.JPG

Mold will not grow on vinegar that has the correct acetic content and if there is mold to begin with, once the acid gets to a certain level, it will kill any mold spores. You can get an inexpensive hydrometer or a digital pH meter but while I have these instruments, I rarely use them as with experience you get a "feel" for it.

As an aside. Raspberries and blackberries, etc., are often loaded with mold spores and mold rapidly when brought home from the store (or are picked in the garden).

Dipping them in vinegar for a minute or so and then rinsing prior to refrigerating them, will extend the time you can hold them before use.

Slightly off topic: My neighbor inadvertently fermented some coconut "water" prior to a party just before last Thanksgiving. (Mixed a batch and forgot to put it in the fridge in the garage and it sat at ambient temps for more than a month) I gave her some of the mother from my white wine vinegar to add to the liquid and she mentioned yesterday that it is coming along nicely, has a distinct vinegar smell and flavor.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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We have a great topic about making vinegar here which would certainly welcome some updates :)

As to the trend that started the topic I have to agree in terms of my local markets. Without going to specialty places I can't find sherry or malt vinegar that used to be stocked. The selection on the red and white wine is well...not a selection! Somehow as noted above the concept got round to casual cooks perhaps that balsamic was "better". Ack! Different products...

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I'm wondering whether this is a strictly NA phenomenon. I know I can find at least one form of wine vinegar in pretty much any local supermarket (and I'm not in Copenhagen, either), and I've noticed it being as much in evidence as ever in Italy.

Anyone outside of North America notice a reduced availability of wine vinegar?

If anything, down here we're seeing a wine vinegar revolution. At my local supermarket, I have the choice of 3-4 different brands of each type, both domestic and imports, the best of what comes being Ponti, from Italy; on the other hand, there are two brands of balsamic on the shelves (one Chilean and one Italian, both of which are properly aged). I can also get herbed red and white wine vinegars, spanish brandy vinegar, and champagne vinegar.

What seems to be disappearing down here is standard white vinegar for pickling. I have to buy mine from a wholesaler chemical company!

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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I suggest you check out places like Tuesday Morning? It's the only place I've found good wine/champagne vinegars, and they are quite good, but maybe pricy for some...even at half price. I did buy some that developed a mother, and had no idea what to do with it, but I use them quite a bit now that I'm not too lazy to make my own vinagrettes. Btw, I've only seen shallots in stores in the last 10 years or so., so it's a demand function. Someone told me Marshall's carried some things like this too, but I don't go in there often enough to verify.

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I suggest you check out places like Tuesday Morning? It's the only place I've found good wine/champagne vinegars, and they are quite good, but maybe pricy for some...even at half price.

Homegoods (the household item sister store to TJ Maxx) also has a lot of them.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I noticed this today at TJ's just looking for regular white wine vinegar, yet all I found was balsamic and other interesting flavors. Disappointing!

To the best of my knowledge/recollection, (and I've been shopping at TJs since dirt was young...), TJs has never carried white wine vinegar. I remember looking for it regularly, and being peeved they didn't have it.

--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

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