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Single-Varietal White Wine Vinegars

Published June 2017

How we tested

In addition to conventional white wine vinegars, which are often made from blends of wines or wine stock, some markets now carry wine vinegars made from a specific variety of wine, such as Champagne or Pinot Grigio. Not surprisingly, these products tend to cost more than bottles labeled simply “white wine vinegar,” and we wondered if they were worth the splurge. We bought three nationally available single-varietal vinegars—made from champagne, prosecco, and Pinot Grigio—paying as much as seven times the cost of the cheapest regular white wine vinegar we bought. We tasted them plain as well as whisked into a vinaigrette that we served with salad greens, and we included our favorite regular white wine vinegar, Napa Valley Naturals Organic White Wine Vinegar, for comparison.

The plain tasting alone convinced us that these vinegars were a notch above most supermarket products, as tasters remarked on their full flavors that were especially “well balanced.” They offered nuances such as “honeyed,” “raisiny” sweetness and “floral,” “fruity” flavors reminiscent of apples and citrus and made vinaigrettes that were exceptionally “smooth” and “refined.” That said, the Napa Valley Naturals vinegar held its own among these high-end products and even marginally outscored the Pinot Grigio vinegar. Since the Napa Valley Naturals product is also made from a single variety of wine grape (Trebbiano), we think the important point is not so much the particular variety of wine used but that single-varietal vinegars are likely made with higher-quality wine, not randomly blended wine stock, and thus make a better-tasting vinegar.

THE BOTTOM LINE: If you want to splurge, O Champagne Vinegar ($1.47 per ounce) is “complex,” “balanced,” and “bright,” but at about one-third the price, Napa Valley Naturals White Wine Vinegar is an excellent everyday option.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Skippy Peanut Butter

In a contest that hinged on texture, tasters thought this "smooth, "creamy" sample was "swell" and gave it top honors, both plain and baked into cookies. Its rave reviews even compensated for a slightly "weak" nut flavor that didn't come through as well as that of other brands in the pungent satay sauce.

$2.39 for 16.3-oz. jar (15 cents per oz.)*
Recommended

Jif Natural Peanut Butter Spread

The big favorite in satay sauce, this peanut butter's "dark, roasted flavor"—helped by the addition of molasses—stood out particularly well against the other heady ingredients, and it made cookies with "nice sweet-salty balance." Plus, as the top-rated palm oil-based sample, it was "creamy," "thick," and better emulsified than other "natural" contenders.

$2.29 for 18-oz. jar (13 cents per oz.)*

Reese's Peanut Butter

This is what peanut butter should be like, " declared one happy taster, noting specifically this product's "good," "thick" texture and "powerful peanut flavor." In satay sauce, however, some tasters felt that heavier body made for a "pasty" end result.

$2.59 for 18-oz. jar (14 cents per oz.)*

Skippy Natural Peanut Butter Spread

The only other palm oil-based peanut butter to make the "recommended" cut, this contender had a "looser" texture than its winning sibling but still won fans for being "super-smooth." Tasters thought it made an especially "well-balanced," "complex" peanut sauce.

$2.39 for 15-oz. jar (16 cents per oz.)*
Recommended with Reservations

Peanut Butter & Co. No-Stir Natural Smooth Operator

Though it says "no-stir" on the label, this "stiff" palm-oil enriched peanut butter was "weeping oil" and came across as "greasy" to some tasters. However, it turned out a respectable batch of cookies—"chewy in the center, crisp and short at the edge"—and made "perfectly good" satay sauce.

$4.49 for 18-oz. jar (25 cents per oz.)*

Maranatha Organic No Stir Peanut Butter

On the one hand, this organic peanut butter produced cookies that were "soft and sturdy" yet "moist," with "knockout peanut flavor." On the other hand, eating it straight from the jar was nearly impossible; its "loose," "liquid-y," and "dribbly" consistency had one taster wonder if it was "peanut soup."

$5.69 for 16-oz. jar (36 cents per oz.)*
Not Recommended

Smart Balance All Natural Rich Roast Peanut Butter

Besides being unpalatably "tacky" and "sludgy," this "natural" peanut butter suffered from an awful "fishy" flavor with a "weird acidic aftertaste" that tasters noted in all three applications. Our best guess as to the culprit? The inclusion of flax seed oil, an unsaturated fat that's highly susceptible to rancidity.

$3.59 for 16-oz. jar (22 cents per oz.)*

Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter

With its only additive a negligible amount of salt, the only truly natural peanut butter in the lineup elicited comments ranging from mild dissatisfaction ("needs enhancement with salt and sugar") to outright disgust ("slithery," "chalky," "inedible"). Cookies were "dry and crumbly" with a "hockey puck" texture, and the satay sauce was "stiff," "gritty," and "gloopy."

$2.69 for 16-oz. jar (17 cents per oz.)*