Fatwa: The Chemistry of Wine Vinegar and its relation with Fiqah


It is necessary to familiarize the chemistry of wine making before discussing the chemistry of wine vinegar. Wine making started about 3000-4000 B.C and is mostly made from fermented grapes, but wine is also made from other fruits, and grain such as rice. Influence of raw material in wine making is very important because it needs high sugar content of 10-24% and low acidity of 0.5 to 1.5% as Tartaric acid. Higher acidity inhibits the yeast fermentation. Alcoholic fermentation occurs through enzymes produced by yeast Saccharomyces cerevisia on the sugar of the Must (Must refers to crushed grapes including juice, seeds and skin) and this alcoholic fermentation ( proceeds with 20 enzyme protein, 3 to 8 organic cofactors and several inorganic cofactors) results in:

Ethyl Alcohol, Carbon Dioxide, Polyphenols, Organic Flavor compounds, Odors compounds

The yeast fermentation is followed by lactic acid fermentation of malic acid, present in grape. This is called Malolactic fermentation in which malic acid is converted by lactic acid bacteria into:
Lactic Acid, Carbon Dioxide

The lactic acid bacteria also change the fruit flavor of wine and add some flavor compound from their metabolism. But majority of wine flavor comes from alcoholic fermentation and wine flavor is continued to change during storage.

A typical wine consists of:
Water, Ethyl Alcohol, Tannins Acids, Polyphenols, Flavor compounds and color if from red grapes

Polyphenols contribute the bitter taste of the wine and astringent mouth feel of wine, characteristic aromas are related to wine maturation. Wine is the raw material for wine vinegar.

Presently Vinegar is produced from a wide variety of substances but the basic requirement is that, those substances should have sufficient amount of alcohol and a satisfactory level of flavoring. The conversion of alcohol to acetic acid by acetobacter bacteria is as follows:

2 CH3CH2OH + 2 O2 --- > 2 CH3COOH + 2 H2O
Alcohol + Oxygen ----> Acetic Acid + Water

The acetobacter bacteria act only on alcohol content of wine, not on other components of wine according to literature. Organic chemistry of wine vinegar and other literature indicate that the coloring and flavoring of wine vinegar are the characteristic of the wine from which the particular wine vinegar is made. From this we can derive the following equation for wine vinegar:

Wine (Ethyl Alcohol + Wine Flavors + Wine Colors + Oxygen) --- > Acetic Acid + Water + Wine Flavors + Wine Colors

So the Acetobacter bacteria do not act on wine flavors and wine colors during the production of wine vinegar. The same flavors and colors are present in wine vinegar and they are not subjected to any chemical reactions during the process. So chemically they remain the same in wine vinegar. There is no research or literature found to suggest that the wine flavors and wine color are subject to Tabdeele Mahaya (chemical change to new products) in wine vinegar production.

It means some part of Haram wine is present in wine vinegar. Besides the above, the processing of wine to wine vinegar is not 100%. Some minute amount of wine is also left over in wine vinegar. According to a Hadith small portion of intoxicant is also Haram as large portion. Wine vinegar is not Halal according to Imam Shafi but it is considered clean according Imam Abu Hanifa (according to Sahee Muslim). According to Anus Bin Malik RA, Prophet Mohammed Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallum did not give permission to make vinegar from wine (Hadith from Sahee Muslim).

We recommend Muslim consumers to avoid using any wine vinegar based on the above Hadith and scientific facts.


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