Champagne vinegar is spectacular and every home cook should have a bottle stocked. For substitutions, various sites recommend Sherry Vinegar, White Wine Vinegar, Chardonnay Vinegar or even ‘Organic’ Apple Cider Vinegar.
The answer is: NO.
Champagne vinegar is made from the same grapes champagne is made of, and if you’re the type who substitutes sherry, ‘white wine’ whatever that means, chardonnay or apple cider for champagne, then perhaps an alternative is for you. But if you care about food then investing in a bottle is a must as champagne vinegar brightens dishes without an overpowering sourness. Think pink grapefruit vs grapefruit, lime vs lemon. The acid is very light and it is a quiet, subtle tart, extremely suited for delicate or bland ingredients.
My all-time favorite salad dressing recipe is Ina Garten’s vinaigrette (which calls for champagne vinegar). This dressing is so simple, I default for most of my salad needs and so versatile, I switch up the dressing and ingredients depending on mood or what’s in my fridge. There are two basic recipes I make the most (which I share here) and as of late, I’ve been making a more tabbouleh-Panzanella inspired version.
The core ingredients are still the same: tomatoes, red onions, English cucumber or Japanese cucumber kyūri because they have nice, crisp bites compared to the common American cucumber, American cucumbers work just as well, just scoop the seeds and cut into quarters. The only caveat is the salad needs to be served chilled otherwise the cucumbers lose their crispness.
I then add fresh mint, parsley or scallions and pita bread, brushed with olive oil and toasted in a skillet with champagne vinegar, salt, pepper, olive oil, with some lemon depending on the amount of herbs I add. (Apologies for the ambiguity, I barely measure.)
As the weather warms, Ina Garten’s vinaigrette and the variations will come in handy for sure. Recommended to all!