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Burning questions: What is Champagne vinegar?

What is Champagne vinegar?

A marketing ploy. The vast majority of vinegars so labeled are indistinguishable, in both taste and method of production, from white-wine vinegar.

Champagne is not just any sparkling wine. It is a white wine made in the Champagne wine region (in northeastern France) from chardonnay, pinot noir and / or pinot meunier grapes. The wine's tiny-bubble carbonation must be achieved through a secondary fermentation in the bottle. All of these requirements are spelled out in the Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC), a designation with legal force in most of the world: In Europe, Canada, Australia, Chile and the United States, you cannot label a wine Champagne unless it is the real thing.

Vinegar comes from the French vin aigre, "bad wine." So, strictly speaking, Champagne vinegar would be made from Champagne that had been allowed to go bad. Obviously, there are not a lot of Champagne producers who are going to take one of the world's most expensive wines and let it go bad for the chance to sell a bottle of vinegar at a fraction of what the wine would bring in.

So, perhaps Champagne vinegar is made in Champagne from Champagne grapes? Perhaps. I studied the vinegar aisle at Fairway in Plainview and discovered that DeLouis Champagne vinegar listed its ingredients as "wine vinegar from Champagne." The DeLouis bottle also name-checked the town of Reims, which is, indeed, in the Champagne region.

Another brand, Clovis, referred to itself as "Reims Champagne vinegar," but contained "wine vinegar," the exact same ingredients as the bottle of Clovis white-wine vinegar, which looked identical but cost 25 cents less.

Then there is "Grande Champagne vinegar" from Domaine des Vignes, whose bottle declared it was "produced from the fine French wines produced in and around Bordeaux and Cognac." The only problem is that Bordeaux and Cognac are both in western France, about 400 miles from Champagne. Cognac brandy must be made from at least 90 percent ugni blanc, folle blanch or colombard grapes, and Bordeaux wines are made from cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, petit verdot, malbec and carménère.

If you can't make Champagne in Cognac or Bordeaux, how do you make Champagne vinegar?

Taking the cake was Colavita Champagne vinegar, whose bottle informed me that on the one hand, it contained Champagne wine vinegar, and on the other hand, that it was a product of Italy. This 17-ounce bottle cost $4.99; the Colavita white wine vinegar (also a product of Italy) cost $2.99.

It is certainly possible to make vinegar from Champagne, but that's probably not what you are buying when you buy Champagne vinegar.

Why do some peaches cling to their pits?

All stone fruits (peaches, nectarines, plums, etc.) come in both clingstone and freestone iterations. While freestones taste better, are easier to work with and keep longer, farmers grow clingstones as well because they start to ripen in June, while freestones don't come in until early August.

Cut a clingstone as if it were a mango: Stand the peach, stem up, on a cutting board and slice off the "cheeks" so your knife just misses the pit. Then, lay the peach down and cut off the flesh remaining on either end of the pit. You'll be left with a pit that is encased in a box of the clinging flesh. Just pick that up and nibble it.

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