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Dilute acetic acid made from fermented beer (malt-vinegar), wine or cider. Herb and fruit flavourings are often added.
The name comes from vin aigre, French for "sour wine", which is what vinegar is, or what it was originally. The bacteria Acetobacter sours the wine, dissipates the alcohol and leaves a mixture of four per cent acetic acid and water.
Roman legions put wine vinegar into their drinking water to purify it. Vinegar was a by-product of wine makers and brewers until the 17th century when vinegar making was established as a separate industry in France. In England sour beer and ale was turned into malt vinegar, and apples into cider vinegar.