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French Vinegar

French Vinegar

The origins of vinegar is probably as old as wine. The Bible mentions the vinegar and we know that the Greeks and Romans attributed it medicinal properties.

In the fourteenth century, Orléans in France developed as the large distribution center of wine and became an important early center of French vinegar production. Until the seventeenth century, vinegar was a byproduct of the production of wine and beer.

With the discovery of fermentation by the French chemist, Louis Pasteur in 1865, it became possible to produce large amounts of vinegar within 24 hours.

Vinegar production process

The alcohol fermentation occurs naturally in contact with air and in the presence of microorganisms. 
This fermentation produces a velvety gray thin veil that covers the liquid and sinks gradually. A gelatinous mass so called, mother of vinegar is formed. At the end of acidification, vinegar is filtered to remove the dead bacteria and restore its clarity.  To develop the bouquet, some vinegars are put into oak barrels to age.

Two vinegar manufacturing methods exist:

  • The traditional method or Orleans process which originated in France, also called the slow method, where wine is added to the "mother of vinegar" in oak barrels. Fermentation can last for six months, after which the vinegar is removed, filtered and bottled. Unpasteurized vinegar then retains all its flavor and color.
  • The industrial process, called German method which can provide vinegar in 24 hours by allowing the alcoholic solution trickle down a tall tank packed with wood shavings. The acetic acid bacteria growing on wood shavings when provided with sufficient supply of air oxidizes the alcohol into vinegar.

French vinegar varieties per region of France

• Wine vinegar Bordeaux (Aquitaine)
• Red wine vinegar (Burgundy)
• Orléans vinegar (Centre)
• Vinegar Reims (Champagne-Ardenne)
• Vinegar Lagny (Ile de France)
• Wine vinegar (Languedoc-Roussillon)
• Cider vinegar (Limousin, Normandy, Picardy)
• Walnut vinegar, cassis, raspberry (Rhône-Alpes)