Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Sherry Vinegar

Like the wine, the vinegar produced in the Sherry zone is the best in the world. Aromatic, varied and concentrated, it is highly sought after by top chefs.  While sales of Sherry stagnate, those of vinegar are rocketing – currently about 4,5million litres are sold annually. Beyond merely fine vinegar, many are producing outstanding sauces based on reductions of vinegar, must and PX.

This superb condiment is made exclusively by the acetic fermentation of young Sherry wines which give it its distinct personality. In the past, wines which became excessively acetic were kept apart and allowed to age separately to avoid the spread of the acetic acid bacteria to the rest. Solera age then concentrated them into wonderfully rich vinegars. From the XIX century Sherry Vinegar became the must-have vinegar and to avoid imitations a Denominación de Origen was established in 1995. This DO is now linked to those of Sherry and Brandy de Jerez.

Just some of the many brands available
Produced by no fewer than 59 bodegas, Sherry Vinegar is aged in the same criaderas and soleras system as the wines and there are some very old soleras to be found. There are two distinct types: those classified by age (Vinagre de Jerez, Vinagre de Jerez Reserva and Vinagre de Jerez Gran Reserva, all from Palomino), and those classified by the grape varieties (Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez).

Vinagre de Jerez: minimum 6 months and up to 2 years in solera system, maximum 3%/vol alcohol, minimum 70g/l total acetic acid content.
Vinagre de Jerez Reserva: maximum alcohol content 3%/vol, minimum age 2 years to 10 years, minimum total acetic acid 70g/l.
Vinagre de Jerez Gran Reserva: Minimum age over 10 years and minimum acetic acid 80 g/l.
Vinagre de Jerez Moscatel / PX: Minimum 60 g/l acetic acid, mínimum 60 g/l sugars.

While lots of bodegas produce vinegar, some are very much more specialised. Páez Morilla began a vinegar solera in Jerez in 1910 and bought more over the years from the likes of Williams & Humbert, Sandeman, O’Neale, González Byass, Alfonso Lacave, Ruiz Tagle and Osborne. Antonio Páez Lobato, known as “el rey del vinagre” (the vinegar king), has recently had a Jerez roundabout named after him. Top brands are Reserva 25, Adelantado Gran Reserva and Doña Pepa sauces.

Antonio Paez Lobato "Rey del Vinagre" (foto:masjerez)
Vinagres de Yema is another vinegar specialist in El Puerto de Santa María, established in the late 1990s by Fernando T de Terry and based on old soleras. Their best known brands are Bota Vieja and Cepa Vieja. Excellent vinegars and sauces are also made by El Majuelo in Jerez, a fourth generation family business which once grew vines.

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