Vinaigre d’Orléans is vinegar made in Orléans, France.
It is 7% acid.
To make it, 240 litre barrels are laid on their side, with the bung hole (the hole that can be plugged) on the side that is up. Holes in each end of the barrel, above what will be the ¾ full mark when laying on its side, are covered with cloth or screen, to permit the entry of air but keep insects out. On one end of the barrel, there’s also a spigot at the very bottom.
50 litres of wine are put in the barrels, added to 100 litres of older vinegar already there. The rest of the barrel is kept as air space. The level of the wine in the barrel will come just below the air holes. The barrels are kept out of direct light, at a temperature of 82 F (28 C), The wine in them is allowed to ferment naturally, transforming itself into vinegar. It takes three weeks.
Then, 50 litres from each batch is put into oak barrels for further aging for 6 months at temperatures just below 60 F (15 C), and 50 litres of new wine goes into the 240 litres barrels to top them up, and start the vinegar process again,
The spigot is then opened to drain the vinegar from the bottom, but the flow is turned off when there’s still about 15% left in the barrel. This also leaves the scum on the surface behind, which contains the most active “mere de vinaigre” (“Mother of Vinegar”), which will vinegarise the next batch. The barrel is filled up again by inserting a funnel in through the bung hole, so that when the vinegar is poured in, it will arrive in the barrel without disturbing too much of the top layer of scum — disturbing it means the next batch of vinegar might not do as well.
There is only one remaining producer of Vinaigre d’Orléans producing it in the traditional way. That is the firm of Martin Pouret, established 1797, renamed from Pouret to Martin-Pouret after a marriage in 1910. They still use the same production techniques that have been used in Orléans for the vinegar since the Middle Ages, and they are still in the same location (Faubourg Bannier) as when the business started.
A 17 oz (500ml) bottle sells for approximately $14.00 US (2007 prices.)
Martin Pouret were one of the first to sell vinegars with herbs in the bottles.
One of their vinegars, called Cuvée Ambrée, is aged in wood for three years.
Orléans considers itself the world capital of vinegar.
The vinegar industry started in Orléans because wines from the Loire region travelled on the Loire river towards Paris. Upon reaching Orléans, some of them would have gone off already (this in the days well before bottles and corks), so in Orléans, they were sold off for vinegar making.
In 1394, the guild of “vinaigriers, buffetiers, sauciers et moutardiers d’Orléans” (“Vinegar, Caterers, Sauce and Mustard Makers “) was formed.
The guild was officially recognized by Henri IV of France in 1594.
Up until 1965, Martin Pouret only sold its vinegar to the makers of Maille mustard. In 1965, however, Maille decided to start making and using its own vinegar. They bought out another vinegar maker in Orléans, Dessaux.
To stay in business, Martin Pouret was forced to actually sell its vinegar direct to the public as a brand in its own right. They began television commercials in 1968.
The expression “Vin d’Orléans” (wine of Orléans) is a wag’s expression meaning that a wine is undrinkable; it’s vinegar.
Grimes, William. Sologne; Wine, Warmth and Time: The Last of the Orleans Vinegars. New York: New York Times. 6 December 2000.
Talpin, Jean-Jacques. Le vinaigre d’Orléans fait de la résistance.Paris, France: La Tribune. 18 July 2005.