A classic vinaigrette is a worthwhile addition to your cooking-from-scratch skillset, and you’ll thank yourself for learning how easy it is to whisk one up in mere minutes. This Classic Red Wine Vinaigrette is a great starting point for learning the principles and then moving on to endless variations. [Sponsored post from 2013]
Inspiration from Jill’s Table
I was inspired to write a post about making a classic red wine vinaigrette after I took a cooking class in 2013 at Jill’s Table where Jill Wilcox demonstrated how to make a vinaigrette.
Even though I’d been making my own vinaigrettes since forever, just literally whisking up what I needed right when I needed it, I still had a lot to learn. My dressings generally had been heavy on the acidic side (an understated way of saying mouth-puckering).
Quality Oil is the Key to Balance
Jill taught me how to achieve a balanced dressing and helped me understand that my problem was that I didn’t like the taste of the oil I’d been using. To counteract that, I overcompensated with vinegar or citrus. I now know that it makes all the difference to invest in a good quality bottle of olive oil and to use it within its shelf life. Of course, you can use different types of oils to make your dressings, but a classic vinaigrette is based on olive oil.
Another staple ingredient in vinaigrette is mustard, which not only adds flavour, but helps emulsify the dressing, marrying the oil and vinegar in a happy fusion.
Whole grain mustard is my choice for this purpose (and most others), although Dijon style may be more classic. I like the look of the mustard grains dancing about in the dressing and clinging to the tender leaves or other vegetables being dressed. The flavour is assertive but not overpowering, and the mustard grains add a hint of toothsomeness to something normally smooth. Overall, a whole grain mustard just makes a dressing more appealing to me.
The brand of mustard that I’ve been using for many years is Maille. After all, a company that’s been producing condiments for over 270 years and which became the official supplier to King Louis XV of France in 1747 is the quality I want on my table. (Plus, their jars are so elegant.)
Vinegar is another important element in a vinaigrette (pretty obvious, don’t you think?), and I turned again to Maille for quality red wine vinegar.
Classic Red Wine Vinaigrette
A classic vinaigrette is a basic in your cooking-from-scratch repertoire, and something worth mastering. While I made a big batch for demonstration purposes in this post, usually I just make enough for whatever salad I’m making, whisking it together in a small bowl with a fork. In just a few minutes I have a fresh and tasty dressing, tailored as I like.
Making just what I need means I don’t have to think about storing leftovers safely and using them up in a timely fashion. (See the recipe Notes for more information.)
Making your own Classic Red Wine Vinaigrette doesn’t need to be a big production, and once you get comfortable doing this you won’t want to buy bottled dressing any more.
DISCLOSURE: In 2013 I was one of 15 Canadian food bloggers selected to be a Maille Mustard Maverick. Maille provided me with coupons to cover the cost of three Maille products. I purchased whole grain mustard, red wine vinegar and cornichons (but not for a vinaigrette!). The only requirement was to write a review or blog about using the products in a recipe and/or tweet or Facebook post about it. I was not compensated for this post, and as usual, all opinions are mine. I am very selective about participating in sponsored posts, only choosing to do so for products I believe in. As noted above, I’ve been using Maille products since long before 2013.
Easy Steps to Classic Red Wine Vinaigrette
I've adapted this recipe from the one presented by Jill Wilcox of Jill's Table at one of her cooking classes. Note, a jar of this vinaigrette can be refrigerated up to 3 weeks, as long as it doesn't contain any herbs or garlic, the addition of which means you can store it only up to 4 days (see Note below). I prefer to adjust the quantities to make only what I need, or to make a larger batch of the basic vinaigrette, and then add whatever herbs and aromatics suit the dish as I use portions of the basic dressing.
To use, just bring the jar to room temperature and then shake well. Or, I usually just scoop out as much as I need with a tablespoon, and let it come to temperature while I'm getting the salad together. A quick whisk with a fork, and it's ready to dress the salad.
- 4 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt, preferably kosher or sea salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper or more to taste
- 2 tsp whole grain mustard
- 3/4 to 1 cup good quality olive oil
- (optional) several leaves fresh basil, minced
- (optional) 1 garlic clove, minced
Pour the vinegar into a large bowl.
Add the salt.
Stir with a whisk to dissolve the salt.
Add the whole grain mustard and pepper.
Whisk to incorporate the mustard and pepper.
Add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking while doing so.
Continue to whisk until the mixture has emulsified.
Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.
If you're using herb or aromatics for addtiional flavouring, stir them in now.
Pour into a glass jar for storage in the refrigerator. Keep up to 3 weeks without added herbs or aromatics, but only up to 4 days if you add them.
Tip: set the bowl on a damp towel to prevent it from moving around while whisking the vinaigrette.
Food Safety Note: For information about food safety re: vegetables and herbs in oil, see: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/default/files/documents/8836/sp50701herbsandvegetablesinoil.pdf
Looking for Other Vinaigrettes?
Once you master the classic vinaigrette, you can go wild with other versions. Vinaigrette madness around here includes Avocado Lime Vinaigrette, a Pickled Strawberry version, and one of my favourites, this Basil Honey version.
First Published 2013 08 27
Updated 2020 07 19
Republished 2020 08 12