Champagne Vinaigrette

Everything you need to know about a dressing and vinegar that no one seems to know anything about.

Side view of champagne vinaigrette

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Why This Recipe Works

  • Using a ratio of 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar creates a balanced dressing that isn’t too acidic.
  • Dijon mustard helps the vinaigrette remain emulsified for longer, which prevents salad leaves from wilting prematurely.

If there’s one thing I can do to set myself up for success during the week, it’s making a big batch of vinaigrette and prepping an assortment of vegetables so I can quickly toss together a salad for lunch. Though I enjoy heftier dressings like ranch, Caesar, or French, spring’s arrival means I’m looking for something lighter and brighter—like a classic vinaigrette such as this one made with champagne vinegar—to pair with fresh green produce like asparagus, leeks, green garlic, and fava beans. But is there really a difference between a vinaigrette made with champagne vinegar and one made with white wine vinegar? What is champagne vinegar, anyway? And how often is champagne vinegar actually made from champagne?

What Is Champagne Vinegar?

Wine vinegars, including champagne vinegar, are made by exposing alcohol to oxygen and allowing the bacteria Acetobacter to convert the alcohol into acetic acid. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates that all vinegars must be at least 4% acetic acid, though vinegars generally range from 4 to 8%. “It takes three ingredients to make vinegar: an alcoholic liquid, oxygen, and bacteria of the genus Acetobacter or Gluconobater, mainly A. pasteurianus and A. aceti,” notes Harold McGee in his book On Food and Cooking.

For vinegars made in the traditional Orléans style, where the wine is left to ferment and oxidize in the barrel, this process can take several weeks, months, or even years. According to Michael Harlan Turkell, the author of Acid Trip, most large-scale vinegar producers today rely on acetators, stainless steel tanks that “pump oxygen through the liquid to promote faster fermentations into vinegar,” which can produce vinegar in as quickly as a few hours or days, though often at the cost of quality. 

Vinegars are often labeled according to what kind of alcohol is used to produce them: white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, etc. But what to make of vinegars sold as "champagne" vinegar? Are we meant to assume the vinegar is made from actual Champagne? Or from any kind of sparkling wine regardless of whether it came from the Champagne region of France? Or is it an indication that specific grape varietals have been used? True Champagne  must be made from one or more of seven varieties of wine grapes, including pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot meunier. Even that is confusing, as there's a type of table grape also sold as a "champagne" grape that isn't used in Champagne wine production. Is wine from the table grape what this vinegar is made from?

In the United States, commercial vinegar products are regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). To find out more about how (and even if) champagne vinegar is regulated, I called the TTB one day to ask if there were any rules surrounding how champagne vinegar is made, sold, and marketed. "That's illegal," the rep I spoke to said in response to my question, insisting in a haze of regulatory confusion that champagne vinegar is itself a banned product. 

I pushed back, explaining that it's a common ingredient sold in grocery stores across the country. After that we went back and forth, with the rep telling me she didn’t think it was possible for champagne vinegar to exist and that she didn’t think the TTB regulated vinegar (even though their website plainly states that it does) and me trying over and over to clarify that it does exist and my question is rather about any rules governing it. Eventually she redirected me to another office where my call went straight to voicemail.

After that I gave up on getting an answer from those tasked with regulating the product, and my question remained: Is "champagne" vinegar a meaningful term at all?

“With champagne vinegar, it’s important to note that for every excellent product, there are just as many ‘champenoise’-style shams,” says Turkell. “Unlike the protected designation of origin (PDO) wines from France’s Champagne region, champagne vinegar can be made anywhere in France [and across the world], and therefore varies drastically in quality.” 

To see if there was truly a difference in flavor between fancy-feeling champagne vinegar and its more casual cousin white wine vinegar, I made two batches of vinaigrette: one with each kind of vinegar, both from the same brand. The difference was barely noticeable. (I actually thought the white wine vinegar had a more balanced flavor profile: it was ever so slightly sweeter and less acerbic.)

The real difference in flavor emerged when I compared a vinaigrette made with a higher quality champagne vinegar made in the Orléans style against another vinaigrette made with a cheaper champagne vinegar found in my local grocery store. At 6% acidity, the Orléans-style vinegar had a smoother finish and was brighter and more well-rounded in flavor, while the other vinegar, at 7% acidity, was sharper and more abrasive.

Ultimately, the real lesson here is that far more important than whether a vinaigrette is made from "champagne" vinegar or a vinegar from some other white wine base is the quality of the vinegar itself. Which is to say, the below recipe is for a champagne vinaigrette, and it calls for champagne vinegar, but you really can use any white wine vinegar you want, preferably a good one. 

Do You Have to Emulsify Vinaigrette?

Okay, you don’t have to do anything. But if crisp, well-dressed salad greens are what you’re after, then emulsifying your vinaigrette is a must. “At its most basic,” Kenji writes, “an emulsion is what you get when you force two things that don’t easily mix to form a homogeneous mixture,” like oil and water, by using an emulsifying agent (or surfactant) like mustard or egg yolks. As Kenji discovered in his vinaigrette tests, emulsifying your salad dressing helps it “cling tightly to the leaves,” resulting in a more flavorful bite and greens that are less likely to wilt. 

Going off Kenji’s findings, I used a ratio of three parts oil to one part vinegar, which he found resulted in the strongest emulsion. For my surfactant, I turned to mustard, which brings a pleasant tanginess that complements the honey’s sweetness. Feel free to whisk the dressing together or skip the extra dishes by doing it the Kenji way: shaking everything together in a jar or squeeze bottle.

Recipe Details

Champagne Vinaigrette

Prep 5 mins
Total 5 mins

Everything you need to know about a dressing and vinegar that no one seems to know anything about.


  • 1/4 cup (60ml) champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (20ml) Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (8ml) honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use a pinch
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) vegetable or other neutral oil
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together champagne vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, and salt. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the vegetable oil followed by the olive oil until vinaigrette is emulsified.

    Side angle view of adding oil to emulsify

    Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

  2. Alternatively, Make the Vinaigrette in a Jar or Squeeze Bottle: Combine all ingredients in a small jar or squeeze bottle. Seal container and shake vigorously until emulsified. Shake well before each use.

    Shaking vingaigrette

    Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

  3. Use as desired on leafy salads, blanched vegetables, or as a sauce for steamed or roasted fish or poached chicken.

Make-Ahead and Storage

The vinaigrette can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Shake well before each use.