In the great wine producing countries of Europe such as Portugal,
Spain, France and Italy, it is not always possible to find pure crude wine vinegar just as
it is produced by the wine-makers.
A wine-maker doesn't like to have near the "ill-fated"
vinegar because it puts in risk its precious wine.
But the vinegar is necessary for the alimentary industry. And here
enters the great vinegar producers exclusively dedicated to the vinegar production on a
Unhappily not all those producers are honest and make a good vinegar of
wine. Many of them use wine of bad quality and they use chemical products to accelerate
Some years ago, we acquired, from one of those factories, 40 litres of
vinegar of wine at 10%. When the employee was to fill the 20 litre vessels we noticed that
in one retreat of the warehouse there was an amount of big blue plastic containers that
are use for transport of chemical products.
It was not possible for us to find out whatthat product was because the
employee didn't give us opportunity of doing so. But after distilling 5 litres of the said
vinegar, there remained in the bottom of the cucurbit a residue of an acid salt.
We desist of acquiring vinegar from that supplier. Someone suggested us
another supplier in a zone of great wine producers about 60 km away from our residence. We
went there to order 40 litres of vinegar of wine.
We found a warehouse that in former times would have been a great wine
cellar of a wealthy producer. We ordered 40 litres of vinegar of wine. However we glanced
over at the enormous wood vats that took thousands of litres and noticed there were some
big sacks of paper in a retreat of the warehouse that looked like sacks of cement.
The solicitous employee asked us if we wanted crude vinegar or ready to
use. We answered that we preferred it crude although the price was the same.
Of course we could not resist the temptation of asking him if it was
just pure vinegar of wine. He affirmed and, coincidentally, told us that a cistern truck
that had transported the wine was still parked in a park beside the warehouse.
As we had already had a negative experience, we asked him what the
sacks that were in the warehouse contained. He answered us without hesitation that it was
actived coal to clear up the vinegar.
We risked asking a question more knowing that in these cases people
don't like much to answer. It was how they made vinegar in such great amounts?
The employee without hesitation told us: you know, this oakwood vat
takes thousands of litres of wine. We never completely remove all the vinegar and we leave
about a fourth of its capacity. Now, look what is underneath the vat.
Observing we saw an electrical motor and what seemed to us an apparatus
to force the entrance of air or similar thing. Here is the secret, he told us. The air
transporting oxygen is forced continually through the bottom of the vat during about two
or three days and, at the end of that time, we have vinegar of wine with more than 10% of
Everything was explained. The acidification was forced by the oxygen
entering the bottom of the vat and after arriving at the wanted graduation, the vinegar
was filtered through active coal to clear it up and give it that "straw" colour
that a true vinegar of white wine. usually has.
He gave us a last explanation. So as not to spend a lot of coal in the
clarification of the vinegar we use a quarter of red wine and the remaining white wine. As
it is necessary for the acidification that there is tannin in suspension. Look, this
vinegar is too strong for culinary use, it has to be diluted in water. It was what we
wanted to hear because the stronger vinegar gives more spirit when it is distilled.
We left the warehouse satisfied with the employee's gracefulness and
with the necessary knowledge to produce our own vinegar.
In large 5 litres plastic bottles pour 1 litre of red wine of 11 to
12º. Pour on this wine some commercial vinegar of wine. Leave the large bottles uncovered
in a place sheltered to light and where the temperature is as constant as possible. In
some time the wine acidifies which we can check by the vinegar smell and taste. We used a
densimeter in degrees Baume to check the graduation of the acidification.
When it reaches the wanted graduation, at least 1º Baume (10%), pour
into the big bottle one litre more of white or red wine. If it is was for culinary use
that could be white wine. After some time the graduation is verified and when it reaches
1º another 1-litre bottle of wine at 11 or 12º is added. Continue successively like this
until arriving at the 5 litres.
If you aren’t in a hurry, you leave the vinegar for a much longer
time because it will reach about 2º Baume, that is 20% acetic acid.
The vinegar made at home in this way with a litre of red wine and four
of white wine has a claret colour, an excellent flavour in agreement with the wine
employee's quality and an aromatic smell completely different from the commercial vinegar
that is made with wine and forced air.
Instead of five large bottles, you can use more, but, from experience,
we can tell you that it is easier to acidify small amounts of wine than large amounts
without using forced air. Or it will take a long time to acidify to the 10% at least.
When it reaches the necessary graduation it will be ready to distil.
You can also use it for culinary purposes after having diluted it in water until 10% or
even using depending on your taste. The commercial vinegar has a graduation of 6% of
acetic acid that is to say 0,6º Baume.
Distillation of the Spirit of Vinegar
It is known from the most remote times, even before written history,
that wine under certain circumstances and conditions sours and turns into vinegar, a word
that means "sour wine".
During this transformation, the alcohol disappears completely and is
changed into acetic acid.
Acquire a minimum of 50 litres of good, pure red wine vinegar at 10%
acidity. Reject any industrial vinegar, because it usually contains chemical products.
Arrange four plastic 1.5 litre bottles such as the ones used for
mineral water or soda.
Pour the vinegar into the bottles, without filling them completely,
leaving at least the headspace the size of a hand.
Place the bottles in a refrigerating ark or in a freezer, and tilt them
slightly so the liquid doesn't touch the bottle caps.
Let the vinegar freeze solid. When all is completely frozen, remove the
cover of one of the bottles and tip it into a large mouth flask of 1 litre capacity. Let
500ml of vinegar drain into the flask. Switch the flask and drain another 500 ml. What
remains in the bottle is a discoloured ice that contains only water. The water is
The first flask of vinegar will be about 4 degrees Baume. The other
will be only about 1 or 2 degrees. A graduated hydrometer of 0-10 degrees Baumé will be
Join all the 4 degrees vinegar you collect in a 5 litre plastic bottle.
Join the weaker vinegar in another bottle.
Now fill the 1.5 litre bottles you used earlier with the weaker
vinegar and freeze them as was done earlier to obtain vinegar of 4 degrees. Join it to the
other vinegar of the same graduation.
Always repeat the same process until you obtain, by freezing, vinegar
of at least 8 to 9 degrees. It is very slow but effective work, and you will need a lot of
patience and perseverance.
When you have all the vinegar with this graduation, proceed to your
distillation. For this procedure, you will use an alembic and the same oven that was used
for the distillation of the spirit of wine (6-litre alembic).
Pour 5 litres of the concentrated vinegar in the cucurbit. Distil about
2.5 litres on a gentle heat and the remaining amount with a stronger heat. The first
spirit to come over is a beautiful lemon colour, and it will be about 1 or 2 degrees. The
other will be stronger. Caput will remain in the bottom of the cucurbit, like a thick dark
honey that you must place in a separate container.
Pour 5 more litres of vinegar in the cucurbit and repeat the process
until you have distilled all of your supply.
Fill the bottles with the distilled spirit again and freeze, as
previously, always separating the spirit of different graduations. It will be very
difficult to freeze beyond the 5th or 6th cycle.
When you have the whole spirit to 5 or 6 degrees Baume, pour it in the
cucurbit after you have washed it very well with a solution of caustic soda. Distil in the
same way, using weaker heat in the beginning. The spirit that leaves first is always the
weakest and what remains in the cucurbit will approach 9 to 10 degrees.
Repeat the process until you have all your spirit to 10 degrees. At
this graduation, the vinegar spirit contains more than 80% of natural acetic acid, which
will dissolve most of the metallic oxides. It is greasy to the touch, like tartar oil.
This is a true work of Hercules that few artists will know how to do
In regards to the honey (Kaput) that remained from the distillation,
pour it in the cucurbit and distil with very strong heat. It will produce a highly
graduate, empyreuma spirit that will join to the other. Faeces will remain in the bottom
of the cucurbit that you must remove with a wood spoon with a long handle, and you can
calcine it in a mud porringer or in a frying pan of iron, over a gas stove with very
strong fire. After it is well calcined and no longer contains any combustible material,
leach the ashes with rainwater and coagulate the salt, as demanded by the Art.
This salt is very deliquescent if it is well calcified. For this reason
it should be kept well closed in a glass flask. It is a true tartar salt that will be very
useful in several spagyrical operations.