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Delicious, fancy vinegars are easy to find in the United States. Go to a well-stocked grocery store and you can get everything from French Banyuls to Spanish sherry to Italian balsamic.
What is harder to find is good ordinary red-wine vinegar. Most of what is available commercially for a couple of bucks a bottle is thin and flavorless. Slightly better, though only marginally, is vinegar made using a speeded-up fermentation process (anywhere from one to three days). Traditional red-wine vinegar, left to ferment naturally on its own, takes about seventy-five days and results in a much richer texture and flavor. “It’s more complex and more subtle than anything you can buy,” says Julie Chai, Sunset’s Associate Garden Editor and Team Vinegar member.
As you’ll learn in The One-Block Feast, the good news is that “slow vinegar” is easy to make at home, tastes wonderful, and is cheap to produce (it feeds on leftover wine). Team Vinegar has two crocks going in our kitchen that yield a constant supply for salad dressings, sauces, and gifts.