Sherry vinegar is made from sherry wine, which means that it can only be produced in one place: Southern Spain. The types of grapes used to make it are the Moscatel and Pedro Ximinez varieties. It is a product of one town in particular: Jerez de la Frontera in Cadiz. Spaniards have been making wine at least as far back as the time of Ancient Rome and possibly longer. They made wine even after being conquered by the Moors, who permitted winemaking for medicinal purposes.
Jerez was given its name after it was retaken by Ferdinand III following the Battle of Jerez in 1231. Spain would end up exporting the wine made in Jerez all over the world and it would become popular in England and France by the 18th century but the vinegar made from sherry wine never became as popular the wine from which it was made. It wasn’t produced on a large scale until the start of the 20th century.
It is believed that the first sherry vinegars were produced by accident. French chefs recognized the value of the vinegar and began using it in cooking.
Today, sherry vinegar is made by aging it for a long time, which is also how sherry wine is made. Sherry vinegar may be aged for as long as 20 years. The long aging time gives it a deep and complex flavor.
Sherry vinegar is aged in one of two ways: the simple method where it is simply stored in a cask for a set period. The second method involves a pyramid of casks using the criaderas y solera aging system, which involves drawing it from the oldest casks. The pyramid is made up of rows of casks with the oldest on the bottom and the next oldest on the row above them. The newest vinegar is at the top. The amount taken from the oldest casks is replaced by the next oldest casks from the row above. Those are in turn topped up from the vinegar casks above them.
Sherry vinegar is a major Spanish product in the modern era with exports doubling since 2004.
Sherry vinegar’s reputation is built on its rich flavor but the flavor profile will vary depending on the type of vinegar and how long it is aged. In terms of its sweetness, most sherry vinegar lies at the midpoint between regular wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar. The oldest sherry vinegars have a flavor profile that is as complex and deep as that of balsamic vinegar.
Health benefits of sherry vinegar
The benefits you get from sherry vinegar are mainly due to compounds like:
- Antioxidants: Sherry vinegar contains polyphenols that act as antioxidants to reduce oxidative stress.
- Acetic acid: The acetic acid in sherry vinegar is responsible for many of its positive effects on high blood sugar.
You can use sherry vinegar to manage or prevent health problems like:
- High blood sugar: Consuming moderate amounts of sherry vinegar on a regular basis can lower blood sugar, which is beneficial for people with diabetes or who are at risk of developing it.
- Cardiovascular health: Sherry vinegar has been shown to improve levels of good cholesterol, also called high-density lipoprotein.
Sherry vinegar is used to make vinaigrettes and marinades. You can use it to deglaze a pan to make a sauce for meat.