Vinegar dates back over 10,000 years. It was discovered quite by accident, when wine had gone bad. Vinegar can, and indeed, has been made from a bewildering array of ingredients. Vinegar is simply the fermentation of natural sugars to alcohol and then secondary fermentation to create vinegar. In addition to grapes, vinegar has been made from molasses, dates, sorghum, fruits, berries, melons, coconut, honey, beer, maple syrup, potatoes, beets, malt, grains and whey (The Vinegar Institute: http://www.versatilevinegar.org/vinegarlore.html). Since vinegar can be made from anything with sugar, the possibilities are staggering. The following varieties of vinegar are classified by a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Compliance Policy Guide for labeling purposes based upon their starting material and method of manufacturing:
Cider or Apple vinegar is made from the two-fold fermentation of apple juice (Vinegar can be made from other fruits as well).
Wine or Grape vinegar is made from the two-fold fermentation of the juice of grapes.
Malt vinegar, made by the two-fold fermentation of barley malt or other cereals where starch has been converted to maltose.
Sugar vinegar, made by the two-fold fermentation of solutions of sugar syrup or molasses.
Spirit or distilled vinegar, made by the acetic fermentation of dilute distilled alcohol.
Blended Vinegar is the product made by the two-fold fermentation of a mixture of alcohol and cider stock.
Rice or Rice Wine vinegar (although not part of FDA’s Compliance Policy Guide) has increased in popularity over the past several years and is made by the two-fold fermentation of sugars from rice or a concentrate of rice without distillation. Seasoned rice or rice wine vinegars are made from rice with the “seasoning” ingredients noted on the label.
Balsamic vinegar (also not a part of FDA’s Compliance Policy Guide) are made from the juice of grapes. Some of the juice is subjected to an alcoholic and subsequent acetic fermentation and some to concentration or heating.