Sherry’s Rich Relations

Christopher Hirsheimer

Vinagre de Jerez (sherry vinegar)—is made from sherry or from unfortified sherry base wine (the best, called the yema or yolk, comes from the first pressing of the grapes), acetified with natural yeasts and blended in a version of the same solera system used for sherry itself. It is vinegar of great character, high in both alcohol and acetic acid, distinctively woody in flavor, with a pungently attractive finish. It puts most commercially produced balsamic vinegars to shame—but it has rarely been attractively packaged or aggressively marketed by the sherry industry.

Brandy de Jerez—there are several qualities, the best being Solera Gran Reserva—is also aged in the solera system. Most of it is distilled from airen grapes grown in the La Mancha region, hundreds of miles northeast of Jerez. House styles vary greatly: Some are dry and almost cognaclike, while others taste sweet and even sometimes floral. With these brandies, packaging is sometimes quite elaborate.