This vinegar is intimately interlaced with the history of wine of the same origin – the one and only Sherry wine. In fact, it was first handled as an “accident” in the winery, when some barrels turned out to be sour. However, the winemakers went to discover their benefits and so these failed wines were transforming into authentic cult items. Sherry vinegar is constantly gaining international adaptations and each time it’s more appreciated for its aroma and unique and singular flavour, apart from its enormous versatility. A tasty culinary perfume!
The Palomino grape variety is the predominant one in the production area of Sherry wines, and therefore of Sherry Vinegar. Meanwhile, the use of other varieties, such as Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel, has been spreading in recent years to create variations of the original Sherry Vinegar. The factors of vital importance that make a contribution are the following: biological ageing under flor, with the natural work of yeasts selected since long ago, the ageing in American oak casks (the oak barrels in which the wine is aged) and, finally, the particular micro-climatic conditions provided by bodegas’ architecture.
Sherry Vinegar, as well as the wines it comes from, is aged following the traditional criaderas and solera system – a genuine and prolonged ageing system which sometimes exceeds 10 or 20 years and which also explains the high concentration that characterise this product.
The wood used for ageing, which is where sherry wines are stored for years, turns out to be essential for the slow evolution of the vinegars and allows some fundamental components, such as tannins, to act during the ageing process and provide colouring, resulting in the final tones of the vinegar, between amber and mahogany, as well as flavour notes with hints of vanilla, coffee with milk, dried fruits or raisined fruits.
In 2000, the protected designation of origin of Sherry vinegar was established with the doble aim of maintaining all of the elements which give genuine character to this product and guarantee its authenticity at the same time (https://www.vinagredejerez.org/).
Criaderas and solera is a dynamic system based on the transfer of vinegars, obtaining a uniform quality. When it comes to a solera from a specific year, this does not mean that all the vinegar in the cask is from that year, but rather that the cask contains a blend of all the vintages from that year to the last one.
The culinary versatility of Sherry Vinegars is enormous, bringing a touch of unique personality to many culinary preparations: cold soups, salads, pasta dishes, meat and fish stews, fruit and ice cream… It isn’t surprising, then, that it enjoys growing prestige in the international culinary world.
Depending on the ageing period to which the vinegar covered by the PDO has been subjected, there are three types of Sherry Vinegar:
- Sherry Vinegar: minimum ageing period of six months. With an acetic perfume, it includes hints of dried fruit and notes derived from its ageing in wood.
- Reserva Sherry Vinegar: minimum ageing of two years. It stands out for its unmistakable and powerful aroma, full of nuances reminiscent of vanilla, dried fruits and wood.
- Gran Reserva Sherry Vinegar: minimum ageing of ten years. Its peculiar aroma, with intense acidity, contains, in addition to notes of aged wine, the memory of its long ageing in oak wood.
In addition, depending on the use of base wines from different grape varieties, there are the following types of semi-sweet Sherry Vinegar (which may also correspond to any of the categories described in the previous paragraph):
- Pedro Ximénez Sherry Vinegar: protected vinegar, to which Pedro Ximénez type wines are added during the ageing process. Its evocation of raisined fruits stands out. Its sweetness on the palate is the feature that best defines it, together with its smooth and unctuous flavour.
- Moscatel Sherry Vinegar: protected vinegar, to which Moscatel type wines are added during the ageing process. Its aroma cannot deny its origin in this grape variety, which is combined with the fresh essences of raisined fruits. When tasted, its great sweetness, naturalness and velvety texture stand out.