While Balsamic vinegars from Italy have become a household staple you may not be so familiar with the Spanish counterpart, aged Sherry Vinegar. Similar to Balsamic you’ll find sherry vinegars with different agings including 30 year, 50 year and sometimes up to 75 years. As with fine balsamics the older high quality vinegars are sometimes used as an apertif or “digestive” (after meal).
The Denomination of Origin “Vinagre de Jerez” is closely linked to the Denomination of Origin “Jerez-Xerez-Sherry”, which was established in 1933 to regulate the production and ageing of sherry wine. Sherry vinegar can be made only from sherry wines. Sherry vinegar has been protected under the Denomination of Origin since March 2000, when it was recognised by the EU as a unique foodstuff. The only other vinegar Denominations of Origin in the world are “Condado de Huelva“, also in Spain, and “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale” from Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy.
The official name for sherry vinegar is Vinagre de Jerez, and there are strict regulations that determine what is allowed to carry this name. To receive the title, the vinegar must be aged in barrels made from American oak for at least 6 months. Sherry vinegar that has been aged longer, at least 2 years, is called Vinagre de Jerez Reserva, and if the Spanish vinegar has aged at least 10 years, it is called Vinagre de Jerez Reserva Gran. There is some sherry vinegar that has been aged over 50 years. The same care that is used to age the fine wine of the region is used with this Spanish food.
The aging requirements are not the only ones that the Spanish vinegar must meet in order to earn the title Vinagre de Jerez. It must also have a minimum acidity of 7 degrees. It must also be aged in the area of Spain known as the sherry triangle. This triangle is formed between the cities of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanluca de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria.
For the home chef that would like to try their hand at cooking with sherry vinegar, it is available at Internet food shops such as igourmet.com, amazon.com and latienda.com. These stores have a variety of Spanish foods available, and items such as Spanish vinegar will surely add to your enjoyment in the kitchen.