How to Make Red Wine Vinegar

Tart, sour, acidic, harsh: four words that don’t exactly make our mouth water. Unfortunately, they’re often words that come to mind when tasting moderately-priced red wine vinegar that we’ve bought at the store. Even more disappointing is that immoderately-priced bottles aren’t often much better. This isn’t the case with balsamic vinegar – we’re willing to splurge now and then on a bottle of good balsamic imported from Italy because we know we can’t replicate the smooth, syrupy results at home. But red wine vinegar is a different story. By taking matters into your own hands, you can make red wine vinegar that is often much better than what you can buy. Better yet, the whole process is much easier than you might think.

It does, however, require patience. About two months from start to finish. In fact, we’re currently waiting for a batch to reach maturity and find ourselves eagerly ticking off the days until we can whisk it into vinaigrette. This sort of giddy anticipation is a big part of why we love making our own food at home. If all goes well with the vinegar currently sitting in a crock in our cupboard, we’re expecting the flavor to be a bit fruity and earthy; mellow and not overpowered by sharp acidity.

The flavor of the red wine you use will directly affect the flavor of the vinegar. This doesn’t mean the wine has to be expensive, it just means it has to be wine that tastes good to you. The next step, finding a good mother, can be a little more complicated. Relax – this step doesn’t involve psychoanalyzing your relationship with dear ol’ mom; we’re talking about an entirely different type of mother.

A mother of vinegar is a thin film of slimy, gelatinous bacteria that encourages fermentation. If you’ve bought a bottle of raw apple cider vinegar, you’ve probably seen a leftover mother floating in the bottom of the jar. This bacteria has the more scientific name of mycoderma aceti but calling it a mother is so much more poetic. You can attempt to turn red wine into vinegar by just letting it sit on your counter without a mother, but you’re likely to have tastier results with the help of some starter bacteria. The magical thing about mothers is that during the fermentation process they give “birth” to other mothers that can be used in future batches of vinegar. People who regularly make their own vinegar can use new generations of one mother to make vinegar for decades. Mothers can even be passed on to friends as a floating blob suspended in a little liquid  – usually wine diluted with water. Beer and wine making stores also sell vinegar mothers for around $10. If you can’t find a store in your area, online stores also sell mothers that are specific to making red, white, malt and cider vinegar.

Other than a mixture of wine, water and a mother, the only other supplies you’ll need are a 1-2 gallon vessel to ferment the vinegar and some cheesecloth. A ceramic crock works well because it keeps out damaging light, but a jar wrapped with cloth or paper to keep out the light could work, too. Covering the top of the vessel with cheesecloth keeps insects out, but lets air get in to feed the bacteria. Tucked away in a warm, dark place, the magical transformation into tasty red wine vinegar will begin. Months later, you’ll be rewarded and we think you’ll agree, it’s worth the wait.

There are people who swear that the best vinegar comes from adding exact amounts of wine over a specific period of time and people who swear that measuring is pointless. This second, more adventurous camp simply pours wine into their crock (which has a mother floating inside) whenever they have wine leftover in a bottle. This approach keeps a continuous batch of vinegar brewing, but you have less control over the process.

If you’d like a more methodical approach, the recipe we’ve always followed to make vinegar is based on one from food writer Paula Wolfert.

Ingredients and Supplies:

  • 2 cups red wine to begin, plus 7 1/2 cups more over the next few weeks
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 8-ounce jar of purchased vinegar mother
  • 1-2 gallon earthenware crock or glass jar (ideally with a spigot)
  • A small square of cheesecloth


Combine 2 cups wine, the water and mother in the crock. Cover the crock with two layers of cheesecloth and secure the cloth with a rubber band around the neck of the crock.

Store the crock in a dark, warm place (ideal temperature for vinegar is between 70-80 degrees). A kitchen cabinet that is not opened frequently should work well.

Let the vinegar sit a week, then over the course of the next week add 2 1/2 cups of wine to the vinegar on three different days (for a total of 7 1/2 more cups of wine). If a thin, web-like veil has formed on top of the liquid, try not to disturb it when you add the wine. This layer is good bacteria forming, a new mother so to speak. Consider using a funnel or turkey baster to add the wine slowly so the bacteria is not disturbed.

Leave the vinegar alone for around two months, although the real test of when vinegar is done is when it tastes good to you. You can steal little tastes while it ferments (which is why a spigot on your crock is ideal) to see how the vinegar is doing. If the vinegar takes on an aroma like nail polish, unfortunately this means it has gone bad and the only thing to do is start over.

When you declare the vinegar done, strain it through a coffee filter to remove any sediment and store it a sterilized glass bottle. You can also keep the vinegar in its crock and simply take straight from the crock as needed and continue to add wine (about a cup or so a week) to keep the vinegar continuously going.

Bacteria in the crock will multiply over time, creating new mothers that will be floating around. “Older” mothers that sink to the bottom and take up room in the crock can be fished out carefully with bare, clean hands.

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77 thoughts on “How to Make Red Wine Vinegar”

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  1. This is really a great tutorial, thanks.

    But am I the only one who thinks that Mark needs to buy Worker Bee a better camera? Come on, pony up, ya cheapskate!

  2. FUN!!!

    So, if i have an almost empty bottle of apple cider vinegar, could i just use the mother from that, or will it mess up the flavor?

        1. Vinegar is only dead if it was pasteurized. Raw vinegar is very much ALIVE(hence a beneficial qualities of it) and mother can and should be reused for the next batch. BTW excellent book on fermentation is “Wild fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz

        2. Aram is correct on “Wild Fermentation.” Great info in there – though the writer’s personal views may bother some. And… have you ever found raw vinegar? I haven’t had any luck locally. All the “organic,” or “natural” or “contains the mother” I found were dead as doornails.

  3. Think this is good? Try making vinegar with a nice fruit wine. Mmmm, cherry wine vinegar.

  4. Wow that looks tasty, and not to hard to do. I haven’t done much cooking with vinegar, but now you’ve got my interest up. Always nicer to use something that I know where it came from, and have control over.

  5. A word about balsamic vinegar. The production of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale – which is the only real balsamic vinegar – is highly regulated champagne style and has to be stored for a minimum of 12 years. This type of balsamic vinegar is incredibly expensive (again, if it doesn’t cost you like a bottle of fancy champagne, it’s probably not it). Cheaper versions of balsamic vinegar, Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, can contain artificial colouring, caramel, thickeners and all kinds of things, so I advise everyone to be careful.

    I don’t know what the situation is for everyone locally, but where I live it is far easier to come across a good red wine vinegar in an acceptable price range than to even find real balsamic vinegar. Of course, now we know how to make our own red wine vinegar 😉

      1. Yeah, you’d be surprised what’s in things once you start reading the labels, even the most innocent things. I read the label off of grated mozzarella the other day, it had potato starch in it. O.o

        1. The potato starch is to keep the grated mozzarella from sticking together.

  6. I love this post. Becoming as self-sufficient as possible is important to me. I hope to see more posts like this! I used to brew my own beer… but having since removed beer from my diet, homebrewing is no longer a useful skill to have.

  7. … can i assume that an organic apple cider vinegar “mother” would work as a starter for the wine/water vinegar?

    1. Even those are usually killed in bottling. You’ll need to find a live culture elsewhere. Been there… done that!

      1. i make herbal vinegars all the time using fresh herbs and bragg’s acv. this spring, my chickweed vinegar grew a huge mother, about 1/2″ thick and 2 more formed under that.

        interestingly enough, the blackberry vinegar that i started the same day from the same vinegar did not grow a mother.

        i decided to try making red wine vinegar with one of the mothers and it is currently sitting on my counter. i just started it about 3 days ago and already there’s a film growing on the top. perhaps something in the chickweed helped ‘grow’ the mother.

    2. We tried Braggs brand, unpasteurized, from a local organic food shop. We picked the bottle with the most visible mother ( some bottles didnt seem to have much in me at all). So far, we’re seeing the mother growing nicely!

  8. Fascinating… I had no idea it was possible and so simple to make vinegar at home. Definitely going to try it!

  9. Does it matter which style of red wine is used? Or, is one better than another.

  10. I’ve used a mother from live apple cider vinegar to start wine vinegar multiple times and never had a failure. Also, though the crock sounds like the best way to go, I just use washed empty wine bottles to brew it in. I just cork them with a speed pour top which allows air in and they sit on the counter.

    1. I use Braggs with the mother and have for years and I use wine bottles with a pour spout with a shot glass upside down over it to keep any contaminants out – AWESOME vinegar that tastes like no other – I sip it straight from a teaspoon – sooo good! When I have leftover wine, I just bottle some of the vinegar and add the leftover wine to the fermenting bottle – always full! Makes great gifts!

  11. I love this site for its practical information. As a modern day homesteader, this kind of information is invaluable. Would you please write an article about how to make apple cider vinegar out of apples. Thank you.

  12. Looks good!

    I’ve recently been trying a lot of new DIY things in the kitchen–sauerkraut being the most recent.

    I’ll have to give this a try!

  13. Great idea! I think I’ll give it a try. Always loved my Italian Grandmother’s Red Wine vinegar, but never got into the Balsamic craze. So, this might be a good way to go. Thanks.

  14. I started making my own years ago in an old wine bottle. As ghetto as this sounds, I just poured off some white vinegar in the bottle because the wine was going south anyways. Shook it up, gave it a few days, used it. Keep adding to it from every bottle of red we open (well, every bottle that tastes good.) It’s worked out for us.

  15. Thanks for the instructions! God bless you all who are on the way to discovery and share it with us city folks who are just now learning country folks ways to have self sufficiency with a flair.

  16. Wine with sulfites will take much longer to” turn” as the sulfites weaken the bacteria in the mother.

    Also, there are special funnels made with very long stems so that when you refresh your crock or barrel with more wine it is added under the surface of the mother so as not to disturb it.

  17. Hello, I am looking for a good mother so I can
    make some wine vinegar.

    Have already ordered a beautiful crock and I do not
    think the beauty of it will make better vinegar, but,
    I had to have it.

    This is all new to me and wonder about getting
    a very good mother, not just the run of the mill
    that someone wants to get rid of.

    Can I use sweet wine? I read somewhere that one
    should not use sweet wine due to the sugar.

    Thanks janet

  18. What a great site! Thanks for the information. I found you because I’m trying to figure out if the film that’s floating around in my half-empty (plastic) bottle of malt vinegar is in fact a mother. It’s definitely slimy, and it covered the whole top of the vinegar. Think I should extract it and try to make wine vinegar>

  19. I started my batch of wine vinegar a week ago using apple cider vinegar with mother and it smells great. Can’t wait to use it.

  20. I found a site that sells charred oak barrels for making red wine vinegar. I ordered a 2 L size for my sister’s birthday. They are They also sell the mother but the red was back-ordered.

  21. Followed your instructions and test my results today, it was fantastic. Now to make some white wine vinegar.

  22. So…I have some red wine in a carboy under the laundryroom sink it has been there for 2 years now. Still looks good and the taste 2years ago was great but then as it sat it turned into “wineshine” and was kicking but!! I have about 3 gallons. Could you make vinegar out of it? We used fruit and sugar with yeast to start it.

  23. i am a bit confused by these directions – i understand diluting the wine, buy starting with 2 parts wine, 1 part water, 1 part mother, as you need to lower the alcohol %. however, the 7.5cups that are added later do not seem to be diluted. isn’t it important to always dilute any additional wine, to keep the overall alcohol % around 7%??

    1. I have never diluted any of my wine vinegars with water or anything else and have no intention of doing so. My wine vinegars are awesome and I’m not gonna mess with perfection! My starter was Braggs with the mother for both red and white wine vinegars…never heard of a vinegar mother that was predjusticed!

  24. I have a vinegar barrel in my wine cellar for some 15 yrs.I add leftover wine to the barrel from time to time.I also add distilled white vinegar each year along with a piece of home made pasta.The vinegar is not as strong as it once was,am I doing something wrong?

  25. I started red and white wine vinegar and the red has all green fugues on the top is this good? i did not use a mother? its only one month. i did not put it in the dark rather? should i just start over?

    1. I think your vinegar was contaminated and needs to be tossed. If you don’t use a mother, it will pick up cultures from its environment but that doesn’t mean it is good cultures so you got bad ones and it has molded. And everything has to be super clean to start and covered with a couple of layers of cheesecloth to keep dust and other contaminants out… I never put mine in the dark but they are in tinted bottles with a pourer in them and a shot glass turned upside down over the pourer so they get air but nothing can get in but air and they’re kept out of direct sun but just on my counter. Don’t give up!

  26. Why do we leave ACV raw, but filter the red wine vinegar? Does the RWV lose benefits through the filtration? Should I leave the mother in the RWV? I’ve read that leaving the mother in RWV can cause problems, but then why not the ACV?

    Help me understand all this!

    1. IMO, the ACV is capped so it is no longer getting an air supply but it doesn’t die… Your RWV is for home use and not to bottle and sell so it’s okay to just keep adding red wine in an effort to keep an infinate supply. I leave the mother in there until it grows to taking up too much space at which time take some of it out and I try to pass it one to someone else wanting to make vinegar or I just start a separate batch afresh. When I want to, I take out some RWV and put it in a sanitized glass container, put a lid on it and eventually give it as a gift. I do the exact same thing with WWV! Simpler answer – the mother has to have air to grow but not to live!

  27. Mark! It’s not bacteria, it’s a *yeast*. Nice article, though, thanks.

  28. I remember my mother taking homemade wine…leaving it on the back porch with sticks of pasta in the bottle. And we always had home made wine vinegar. What role did the pasta play in turning wine into red wine vinegar? I was too young to care at the time.

  29. I’m currently making red, champagne and malt vinegars, aging them in oak barrels. What is happening when mold is growing inside the barrel above the malt vinegar I’m aging. Is it going bad? None of my wine or champagne barrels are doing that. All you see is a perfect mother covering the vinegar.

    I’d like to bottle the malt vinegar but unsure about the growing mold in the upper part of the barrel. Please advise. Thank you

    1. I would toss it, mold on any food is bad – unless you have injected cheese with a cultured ‘mold’ to get blue cheese. Your wine has picked up contaminant cultures from its environment or from not starting out sanitized fully…or something has gotten in it that wasn’t supposed to. Did you start out with a mother? It would be the luck of the draw if you’re trying to get it going without one – it can work but it can also not work whereas a mother is more of a sure thing but you still have to keep contaminants from getting into it.

  30. I purchased a red wine mother culture and started my wine about 3 weeks ago following your recipe/instructions. The first 2 weeks I checked on it every day and I it actually smelled like vinegar. Last night (It is in it’s 3rd week) I went to check on it and it no longer smells like vinegar. Is this normal or did something go wrong? Thanks

    1. I’m guessing it is in a stage right now – not near done/ready. Try waiting another week or so – it can take a couple of months. If you get mold, it is lost and needs to be tossed…can you sneak a taste and see where it is in fermentation? I’m curious, too!!!

  31. if anyone can help where I’m confused is if you add more wine to vinegar to keep it going can you take vinegar out at anytime or that new wine that was added has to ferment ?

  32. I have the same question as Peter, the guy before me asked. I am starting my vinegar in a large Mason jar with wine, water and mother. I will wait for some good vinegar to be made and then want to put it in this nifty oak barrel I bought online for further aging. However I want to be able to take from it from time to time and then replenish with wine. SO…..again the question, if I am replenishing with wine, must I wait before taking from the barrel again?

    Glad I found this site!

  33. I have had RWV for about 20 – 25 years…..given to me by a friend with the mother… a 5 gallon jug…….I keep adding red wine as needed and I have great RWV……I never touch the mother or anything else……..just add wine when I get low…..sometimes I will add a quart or more and sometimes a lesser qty……….I hope I never lose it…….has anyone had theirs for a long time and what has your experience been………..thanks

  34. So I don’t get Vidad comments about most vinegars being dead when some have used Braggs with success.Braggs is what I am using this time and I have a significant mother (have had this cider vinegar for about 3 years with a large “booger”) I don’t drink wine all that much but I have a ton of merlot,so I am trying it out.
    The directions say to add more wine in the first week I made a mistake and thought you added more after 2 1/2 weeks,anyone think this will matter??

  35. Hi…I know this article’s a bit old, but hopefully someone’s still monitoring comments…if anyone can turn me on to a source for nice clay/ceramic/stoneware crocks, I’d appreciate. Thought I’d be able for find one locally (and I may still do be able to), but my initial searches have not been productive. Thanks!! And thanks for the great how-to article!

    1. I use juice dispensers.

      Glass or plastic, they both work.

      New wine is added at the top.

      Aged vinegar is harvested from the spigot at the bottom.

    2. I purchased a ceramic crock at a local thrift shop for $10. I have also used clear glass gallon jars and wrapped a dish towel around them to keep out the light. Either or would work. Want to have a lot of air space in there and I cover with a white cloth napkin, fastened with a rubber band. I tried the cheese cloth and found the fruit flies get through the cheese cloth. Hope that helps.

  36. Ok, I think I have my answer……I started with just red wine without a mother and I have a cheese cloth over it and in a dark place…after two months it look like mold on top…..could it be? Do I need to start over?

    1. Great explanation on making vinegar, and glad to see there are some current comments! I have been attempting to make vinegar for about 4 months from mother someone gave me, basically following the recipe outlined here. I have not gotten a a new mother to grow on top (is that supposed to happen??). But lots of sludge in the bottom. And now pink mold has started growing on top.

      Is the mother I received bad or can I reuse it?
      Do I need to start over??

  37. I live in tropical north Queensland. I make a 20L drum of mango vinegar every mango season, [Dec/Jan ie now] I collect fully ripe wind fall mangoes, slash them open, cover with water, boil for an hour until all flesh is coming off the pips and skins, strain through colander [coarse] then finer strainer. Next day check specific gravity, needs to be at beer level 1030 to 1040 which it always is, if mangoes were fully ripe. Then add wine yeast and an air lock. Leave for 3 weeks until alcoholic fermentation is complete. Siphon mango ‘beer’ from top, leaving 5L of sludge behind, and add to second 20L drum containing 5L of last seasons vinegar. Cover open top with cloth and tie. Temps must be above 19C and one month later it’s vinegar. I use it for making chutneys, relishes, sweet chill sauce, mustard pickles, worster sauce. I age some with wine makers oak chips for another year or two, that’s best for plain vinegar. I love the softness and balance.
    I found my mother is best with alcohol level between 5% and 6%. Over 7% it wouldn’t work, and under 4% is not acid enough to be food safe. I have a PDF of how I do it, if anyone is interested. I won a bronze medal at Royal Sydney Fine Foods Show some years ago.

    1. i am just trying to learn how to make vinegar i could use your PDF so any info would help

  38. I have had vinegar with mother working foe about 2 months, but now it smells “musty”. What did I do wrong?

  39. I have tried twice to make red wine vinegar, both times a failure, I think. I used the purchased mother, followed the directions exactly. Let it sit on the counter in a crock with cheesecloth and the crock lid on. I don’t get anything that looks like the mothers I have seen in pictures. All I have is a film on top and what looks like sediment. My current batch has been sitting here for 6 months or more. It doesn’t smell like nail polish but doesn’t taste like vinegar. At least not what I am used to. Is it possible that it is not getting enough air (the crock lid does not seal it just sits there)? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

    1. I just bottled my first batch of red wine vinegar after 7 weeks of fermenting. A local fermenting friend passed on a chunk of malt vinegar mother and i plopped it into my container of wine and water (I used this recipe), and added another bottle the 2nd week. 2 weeks after that, I had a thick gelatinous mother on top! within the next few weeks, I would get wafts of vinegar coming from my cupboard. Today I bottled and its fantastic! I used a couple bottles of home brewed, homegrow concord grape wine from last Summer, and put it in a 3L glass container with a coffee filter covering the top, held on with Elastic band.
      Did your wine have sulfites? I hear that kills the mother? or perhaps the lid on your crock is not allowing enough oxygen in?

  40. I’m wondering if I could use this recipe to make port vinegar? Or would i need to dilute to equal parts beacause of the high alcohol level?

  41. Hi,

    Tried a batch of wine vinegar using a big chunk of kombucha mother (of which I have way too many!) and I didn’t know you needed to dilute it or keep feeding it. I fermented until a new 1/8″ mother formed on top; a month or so, I think. The end product tastes very similar to the original wine, just a little more tart and slightly effervescent- I am surprised as I would have thought a long fermentation like that would have changed the character more.

    So is it possible that it might not be safe? Also, does anyone know if the end product has the same alcohol content as the original?

  42. I have been told to make a mother using about 2 slices of ciabatta-like bread, placed in a glass jar and add a bottle of red wine. Leave in a kitchen cupboard with the lid slightly ajar for 4 weeks, when the mother should have formed. Then add a bottle of red wine and leave till it is vinegar. Can anybody help with this ? Thanks for any help. Molly.

    1. I would like to know about making a mother also. I live in Russia and don’t know how to get hold of raw acv or a mother.

  43. Taste good but it is stink. Be careful.. It is not good for your stomach.. Acid. Not to eat it more often. Not good.