Sherry Vinegar: A truly wonderful treat for your kitchen - Quill & Pad (2023)

Sherry Vinegar: A truly wonderful treat for your kitchen

vonKen Gargett

For those of you who enjoy spending time in the kitchen, how many times have you been asked what you could substitute?sherry vinegarin a recipe? Or you can rummage in the back of the pantry and hope there's still an old bottle of this substance there. Or just use balsamic vinegar or whatever else you have on hand as a substitute without even thinking about it?

My local Woolworths has a bottle of Sherry Vinegar for $4.50. I'm sure it's perfectly usable, it says it's a certified Spanish DOP and aged in oak barrels for 6 months. However, elite specimens fetch prices that are in no way inferior to those of the very best.balsamic vinegar.

Now some of you will be appalled. They'll no doubt make sure you keep at least a bottle of quality sherry vinegar on hand at all times, just as you would with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and other essentials. If you've made do with just that cheap bottle, or haven't used sherry vinegar at all, then it's time to change your life.

Good sherry vinegar is a truly wonderful treat and, in my opinion, indispensable in a good kitchen to transform many dishes. Marinades, sauces, vinaigrettes, dressings, just drizzle a little on a tomato and basil sandwich or work it into soups, stews and casseroles - all benefit. Drizzle a few drops on meat or fish. A good sherry vinegar is enough to enhance and enhance a dish.

In my favorite book on all things sherry,„Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla“ von Peter Liem and Jesús Barquin, point out that it was traditional in all wineries to keep a barrel or two of vinegar “in the corner of the winery”. It came from the time when boots were found on his Solera in which the wine contained "too much acetic acid".

In other words, fancy wine barrels turn into vinegar. These barrels had to be removed from theSoleraso they don't contaminate other barrels. The vinegar was only for family and friends. for the 19thIsIn the 19th century they realized that there was apparently a demand for it, especially in France, and so small quantities were exported. Even today, France sources more than half of all sherry vinegar produced.

Sherry Vinegar: A truly wonderful treat for your kitchen - Quill & Pad (1)

Casa Balbino Tapas-Bar

It is commonly used locallyAndalusian cuisine,As expected, for me the tapas in Jerez andSanlucar de Barramedalead the world (if you're in doubt, go to Casa Balbino in Plaza del Cabildo - I like to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner there when I'm in the region). And what would a great gazpacho be without a spritz? However, sherry vinegar can be used in many more ways than just for Spanish dishes. Japanese cuisine is an obvious example, but one of many.

Not surprisingly, most Jerez vinegars are made from itPalomino-Traube, and it's dry. Occasionally a winery will use Muscatel or Pedro Ximénez, which are sweet. Those prepared with Moscatel are also considered particularly aromatic.

Production these days is no longer that accidentally dodgy keg in the corner, but when a keg misbehaves on the stovetop, it becomes part of your vinegar production. Rather, sherry vinegar, like sherry itself, is made by soleras and criaderas. It has had its own designation of origin since 1995 and is called Vinagre de Jerez. Since 2000, it has been under the direction of the same body that oversees sherry, the Consejo Regulador. The only other vinegars that have a protected designation of origin are balsamic vinegar (Traditional balsamic vinegarof Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy) and "County of Huelva' and 'Montilla Moriles' in Spain.

There are several classifications. Basic sherry vinegar matures between six months and two years; this vinegar is known simply as sherry vinegar. If aged between two and ten years, it qualifies for the reserve designation. More than ten years and it becomes Gran Reserva. The longer the vinegar stays in the barrels, the more it adds a light oak note to the flavor spectrum.

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Sherryweinfässer by Bodegas Páez Morilla

Producers with a reputation for quality sherry vinegar include Valdespino of Castile and Gutiérrez Colosia (I recall a visit to the latter might confirm this). One manufacturer that focuses almost exclusively on sherry vinegar isBodegas Páez Morilla, which exploits Soleras with more than 2,000 casks.

So, can you use a substitute for sherry vinegar and save yourself the time and hassle of buying a quality one? It would be a bit like using vegetable oil when a high quality olive oil is needed. Also, remember that while a very old example is unsurpassed in complexity, more recent examples can also work wonders. However, not all sherry vinegar is wonderful. Find out about additives and colorings. As with anything, there are good and bad examples.

If we return to the famous Jerez triangle, the Jerez Denomination of Origin includes nine municipalities. Sherry vinegar, whether it comes from casks that have been misbehaved or intentionally taken along the path of the vinegar solera, the contents of the casks receive no actual fortification, but the solera system allows for added complexity.

A minimum of six months aging with bacterial fermentation, some of course can take several decades longer. All sherry vinegars must have an acidity of at least 7%, Gran Reserva at least 8%. These values ​​far exceed the values ​​of most other vinegars.

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Solera-Sherryfässer in the Bodega San Francisco in Spain

As with sherry itself, the solera system allows vinegar to be drawn from the oldest casks for bottling, with the next oldest taking its place, and so on. This happens every year, which means that each bottle contains a small, sometimes very small, amount of the older component. As a result, each bottle offers both complexity and freshness.

If we may, let's look at two very good examples, although one is perhaps a bit controversial: an "Australian Sherry Vinegar". Apparently despite the fact that the term "Sherry" is banned for Australian liquor drinks of this type, now called Apera (which is of course also a good thing, but if I may digress, a very different situation from misleading and deceitful attempts by Prosecco makers ). (banning the term for Australian examples - Prosecco is a grape and not a region, despite recent attempts to rewrite history - but that's a debate for another day and dish) This, surprisingly, does not apply to sherry vinegar. Maybe it was just a gap so small that no one thought to fill it.

In fact, Ian Henderson, the man behind Lirah vinegar, told me that "Sherry is just a word reserved for alcoholic products under GI recognition rules." We purify our "Shiraz Vinegar" past the AGWA before we put it export.” In other words, oddly enough, it all seems legal (whether that's still the case who knows, but in the meantime the world can enjoy this great vinegar). Ian notes that his process is "very traditional". We bought Australian made "Sherry/Apera" made with already cask aged flowering yeast. We then ferment the wine in vinegar and age it again for 5 years in American oak barrels, in which Australian red wine has matured. He is behind a "New World version of a timeless classic". I think it was very successful.

Australia's leading vinegar producer,Lira, makes a variety of different vinegars, but their version of sherry vinegar is a smash hit. it means thatSherryessig Lirah Gran Reserva($25/375ml), although another breach is that it is aged (in this case) for 4 years instead of the 10 years prescribed at Jerez. It does not matter. The result is an excellent, complex, fresh vinegar with a deep flavor and a smooth and lingering finish. It can be difficult to find for those who don't live in Australia, but don't let that put you off if you get the chance.

From here we come to the original and one of the best vinegars in the world. By Equipo Navazos, their Gran Reserva "La Bota de Vinagre", Boat #106 ($185/375 ml).

We looked at the wonderful sherries fromTeam Navazosabove (and, spoiler alert, we'll be doing it again very soon), so we won't repeat the story here. We also touched on some of his other projects, spirits. Imagine my delight when I found out that they have also released a small batch of an exceptional Sherry Vinegar.

I got in touch with my friends there: Jesús Barquin (yes, in addition to being co-author of my favorite book on sherry, he is also co-founder of Equipo Navazos and in his spare time Professor of Criminal Law and Director of the Institute). in Criminology from the University of Granada) and Eduardo Ojeda (no less accomplished, Eduardo is the technical director of the Estévez Group, which includes Valdespino and La Guita, which means he is one of the most important winemakers in the world).

Jesús told me that they had liked the idea of ​​sourcing casks of fino sherry vinegar for their La Bota line for a while (that's a lot of what they do: finding and bottling small batches of exceptional sherry), but that was one of their key traders thought it would be hard to sell how wrong can that be?

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Sherry Vinegar by Equipo Navazos for the Eleven Madison restaurant

What finally convinced Jesús and Eduardo was that New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park, who they had previously worked with, was keen to make one just for them. They took the plunge and bought two barrels, one forPark once Madisonand one for normal release. This turned out to be La Bota 106 (they number their releases, so it's their 106th product ever since they started almost twenty years ago). It was such a success that shortly after 106 they also released another, slightly younger specimen: La Bota 112 (whether that made it escapes me).

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Team Navazos La Bota 106 Sherryessig

The barrels of La Bota 106 come from the specialist in Jerez vinegar, Páez Morilla. Only 1,200 half bottles were made. It is available with 11% acetic acid and 3.5% alcohol. The source was some very old barrels from Páez Morilla. The team describes it as "very aged, very intense and concentrated, with no additives or dilutions and at a respectable price, albeit cheap given its age and quality". As with any good sherry vinegar, there is no astringency here either. Gentle complexity, incredible length, sharp freshness and balance. Just wow!

So how many years? The original vinegar was made from wine barrels that were already fifteen years old but then stored for another forty years. How many vinegars of any kind can boast an aging period of more than half a century? Typically, small amounts of this vinegar would be incorporated into other products to add complexity and character. It's so strong (I must confess I put a drop on my tongue a long time ago and still taste it quite distinctly) that they suggest adding it with a pipette or making a separate dressing from small batches with different spices and then add it to each dish. It's really adorable. If La Bota 106 is gone, it's unlikely we'll ever see anything like it again.

As a reminder, La Bota 112 is around thirty years old.

Even if these are difficult to find and not suitable for everyday use, there is still a whole world of sherry vinegars. Deli and specialty food markets will no doubt have several of these.

If sherry vinegar isn't part of your life, it's time to invite it!

You can also enjoy:

Introducing the most controversial of all wines: sherry

Equipo Navazos La Bota 65 Ron "Bota NO": No additives, no coloring, no sweeteners, no flavorings, ambient filtered and 98/100. Applause!

Fine Vineyard Corrals Payment Balbain: A phenomenal Sherry!

Praise for anchovies: if you don't love them yet, you haven't figured out just how good they can be

1 responder

  1. Sherry Vinegar: A truly wonderful treat for your kitchen - Quill & Pad (8)

    Tam O'Banter Dice:

    May 14, 2023 at 10:50 am

    It's good to know Ken. I'll grab some sherry vinegar next time I go for the seasoning. 😊
    I've been a bit of a vinegar fan for the past two years. Mrs. Banter bought me a 25-year-old balsamic vinegar for Christmas one year. A revelation!
    I always have some balsamic vinegar and white wine (the most common) in my pantry.
    I've also started experimenting with single variety olive oil from Spain. Extraordinary things, although I have to take a break because I'm gaining weight very quickly. My perennials are rice bran or grapeseed.
    Good Japanese soy sauce and balsamic vinegar are used daily in my kitchen. The combination of umami and sweet and sour complex is addictive!
    If you haven't experimented with good shoyu and tamari, I highly recommend it.


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