There are a number of famous vinegars – balsamic, champagne, traditional Orleans style, and tarragon-flavoured, or white wine vinegar and then there is sherry vinegar.
Some consider sherry vinegar the “king of all vinegars”. In fact, good quality sherry vinegar costs much more than sherry itself
This exquisite product owes its unique character to a number of factors – sherry, which comes from a well-defined viticultural region; it must be aged for at least two years, and produced by the solera system (a fractional blending technique explained in the article titled Sherry). Some companies age their vinegars for 20 – 30 years, and sell it at a small fortune!
Sherry vinegar was always produced by accident or poor wine making practices. Sherry barrels containing too much volatile acidity are never used for sherry or brandy. Winemakers gave the vinegar to their families or friends for cooking. They were ashamed to admit that some of their wines had too much volatile acidity and thus unfit for sherry. Most people using sherry vinegar express their appreciation for the intensity of flavour of this deeply flavoured vinegar.
Around 2000, marketing-oriented executives of the Sherry Regulatory Agency in Jerez de la Frontera saw the potential of the product, and formulated regulations for uniformity.
The product was registered with the EU head office as a unique foodstuff, subject to protection
In the past, French chefs made good use of sherry vinegar in their marinated dishes or salad dressings, as they had access to adequate supplies but now anyone with an interest in flavourful food can buy this excellent product.
If you live in a major urban centre in North America, you should be able to get good quality, well-aged sherry vinegar in reputable grocery stores.
You will be surprised how a little fine vinegar can make such a huge difference in your salad dressing or any other dish you may be preparing.