Culinary Arts

What Is Champagne Vinegar? Plus Easy Champagne Vinaigrette

Written by MasterClass

May 29, 2019 • 1 min read

Champagne vinegar may sound fancy, but it's actually quite down-to-earth. Bust it out on any ol’ day.


What Is Champagne Vinegar?

Champagne vinegar is a mild, floral vinegar typically made from Chardonnay and pinot noir grapes. Like other wine vinegars, the base wine is combined with bacteria (a “vinegar mother” just like kombucha) and allowed to age and ferment into acetic acid.

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What Are the Culinary Uses for Champagne Vinegar?

Because it’s so mellow, champagne vinegar shines brightest as a supporting player: douse a pile of little gems, watercress, and frisee with a light salad dressing, add a tablespoon to your tomato sauce or hollandaise to give it a little kick, or use ¼ cup of it to deglaze your pan before a low-and-slow braise.

How to Make Champagne Vinegar Quick Pickles

Quick pickles start with farmers’ market vegetables and a brine of vinegar, water, salt, sugar, herbs, and spices. They can be kept in the refrigerator for a month. Whichever vegetables you choose, cut them into uniform sizes for even pickling. Use champagne vinegar for its neutral flavor and ability to marry into the brine.

How to Substitute Champagne Vinegar

Though you can pretty much swap any type of vinegar for another (with certain limits depending on flavors and texture—thick, redolent traditional balsamic vinegar shouldn’t be cooked, for example), champagne vinegar lives on the lighter end of the spectrum, so it’s best to start there when substituting. Asian rice vinegar is a good substitute, as is white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar, even though it’s a touch harsher. Red wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar can work, but they're doing to be less sweet and much more flavorful and colorful.

Vinaigrette in glass jar with salad in background and whisk

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Easy Champagne Vinaigrette Recipe

This bright, easy-going vinaigrette brings the soft fruit of champagne vinegar together with the floral, allium bite from lightly pickled shallots. Adjust the ratios to suit your own preferences!

  • 1 small shallot, finely diced
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  1. Place diced shallot in a small bowl and cover with lemon juice. Set aside for 5 minutes.
  2. In another small bowl, combine the olive oil, champagne vinegar, salt and pepper. After the shallots have pickled slightly in the lemon juice, add (including pickling liquid) to olive oil and vinegar.
  3. Whisk to emulsify. Season to taste.

Find more culinary techniques in Alice Waters’s MasterClass.