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July/August 2017

Single-Varietal White Wine Vinegars

Some markets now carry wine vinegars made from a specific variety of wine, such as Champagne or Pinot Grigio. 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.

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

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.