If you are like me and are new to the culinary world, you know just how confusing the condiment aisle is. Two condiments that are particularly confusing are sherry vinegar and sherry wine.
Both sherry vinegar and sherry wine are made from three specific white grapes found only in southern Spain, in a region called The Sherry Triangle. The soil in this region is the best for growing grapes. The three types of grapes are Palomino, Pedro Ximénez, and Moscatel.
Sherry vinegar and sherry wine may be made from the same grape but that is where the similarities stop. Learning these differences is beneficial in understanding how best to use these condiments to enhance your dishes.
Sherry vinegar and sherry wine are each processed differently. The difference in how they are aged and fermented affects the flavor profile of each one.
To make sherry wine, the grapes are harvested in September and pressed several times to release the must or juice. The must will ferment until November and is then tasted to determine whether or not it will be fortified with a grape sherry spirit to raise the alcohol content or if it will be distilled and later turned into vinegar.
If the wine has a good flavor and aroma, the wine is fortified to about 15% alcohol to allow a film of yeast to grow on the surface of the wine. The yeast lowers the acidity of the wine, giving it a sweet, nutty taste that has a slight saltiness.
Sherry vinegar is sherry wine that has been allowed to ferment. The fermentation process is what takes the wine from something sweet to something more acidic. Just like wine, sherry vinegar also has an aging process and the vinegar is classified by how long the wine has fermented.
The flavor profile of sherry vinegar is determined by whether or not a young or aged wine was used and how long the sherry wine was allowed to age and ferment. The three different ages of sherry vinegar are 6 months, 2 years, or 10 years. Sherry vinegar has a sweet and nutty taste with a slightly sour tang.
In terms of ingredients, the fundamental elements of sherry vinegar are:
- Fermented sherry wine made from mostly Palomino grapes
Some brands may include additional ingredients for flavor or as preservatives, but the basic components remain the same.
Sherry cooking wine ingredients include:
- White grapes (Palomino, Pedro Ximénez, and Moscatel)
- Yeast for fermentation (naturally occurring)
The alcohol content in cooking wine is high since much of the alcohol is burned off during the cooking process. Sherry cooking wines are fortified to increase their alcohol content, making it a better choice to use in recipes that call for a strong cooking wine.
Best for Calorie Content
Sherry vinegar is lower in calories than sherry wine. A tablespoon of sherry vinegar has 5 calories whereas a tablespoon of sherry cooking wine has 12 to 15 calories. This makes sherry vinegar a better option for you if you are watching your calorie intake.
Best for Carbs & Sugar Content
Sherry vinegar and sherry wine both contain trace amounts of carbs and sugar. Sherry vinegar has 1 gram each of carbs and sugars, while sherry wine contains around 1 to 2 grams of carbs and sugars per tablespoon. If you are aiming to reduce your carb and sugar content, sherry vinegar would be the better choice.
Best for Protein Content
Neither sherry vinegar nor sherry wine are significant sources of protein. They both contain only trace amounts of protein, so neither option stands out in terms of protein content.
Best for Fat Content
Sherry vinegar and sherry wine both have zero grams of fat per tablespoon serving.
Best for Fiber Content
Neither sherry vinegar nor sherry wine contains any amount of dietary fiber.
Best for Sodium/Salt Content
Sherry vinegar is a salt-free condiment. However, sherry cooking wine has a tiny amount of salt added to enhance the food it is cooked with. One tablespoon of sherry cooking wine has 95 mg of sodium. If you are someone who is on a sodium-restricted diet, sherry vinegar is the better choice for you.
Best for Vitamins/Minerals
Sherry vinegar and sherry cooking wine do not contain measurable amounts of vitamins and minerals. Neither one should be used as means of adding any nutritional value to your food.
Best for Flavor/Texture
As we have already discussed, even though sherry vinegar and sherry cooking wine are made from similar grapes, they both have distinct flavor profiles. These differences will significantly impact the outcome of your dish for good or for bad. To spare you from making the mistakes I make, let’s next discuss how these two condiments can enhance the flavor and texture of a recipe.
Sherry vinegar tastes how the name implies – like vinegar. It has a sour, acidic taste with a hint of nuttiness. Because sherry vinegar is aged for so long, it has a more intense flavor, making it the better choice for dressings, glazings, marinades – anything that needs a strong taste to brighten up a dish.
Sherry cooking wine tastes much like a dry wine but with a hint of nuttiness. Because it has a higher alcohol content, you will not lose the flavor of the wine in the cooking process. Sherry cooking wine is the best choice for hearty dishes such as stews, sauces, and braises.
When it comes to texture, you do not have to worry about either sherry vinegar or sherry wine altering the texture of any dish it is used in.
- Sherry vinegar: sour, acidic, and intense flavor; excellent for salad dressings, marinades, and deglazing; can help tenderize proteins in marinades; will not alter the texture
- Sherry wine: dry, nutty flavor; great for sauces, stews, and braises; will not affect the texture
Now that you know the differences between sherry vinegar and sherry cooking wine, you are ready to start cooking!
Allergies and Sensitivities
As with any new food you add to your diet, it’s important to be alert to any potential allergies or sensitivities to the new ingredients.
If you are allergic to grapes or are sensitive to alcohol, it is best to avoid both sherry vinegar and sherry wine. If you are not sure whether or not you have an allergy or sensitivity to grapes, here are some symptoms to look out for when you eat these foods:
- Runny nose or nasal congestion
- Tingling or numbness of lips, mouth, tongue, and throat
- Itching or hives anywhere on the body but especially on the face
- Trouble breathing
- Abdominal pain
Sherry vinegar has a much lower alcohol content than sherry wine but it is more acidic and this can sometimes cause digestive issues for some people. If you experience acid reflux, heartburn, or any other gastrointestinal discomfort after consuming the vinegar, limit your intake or seek out other alternatives.
In short, listen to your body. If you experience any discomfort after consuming either sherry vinegar or sherry wine, consult with your doctor to first make sure you are not in danger and then plan accordingly so that you can have a safe culinary experience.
Overall Winner – Which One is Better?
When it comes to determining whether sherry vinegar or sherry wine is better, it ultimately depends on what you use them for. They both offer distinct flavors and characteristics, which lend themselves well to different culinary purposes.
Sherry vinegar is made from green Palomino grapes that have been fermented and aged in American oak barrels for at least 6 months and has a crisp, acidic taste that is slightly sweet with a hint of nuttiness. It is best used as a dressing, marinade, or sauce.
Sherry wine is aged wine that has been fortified with a grape spirit to increase its alcohol content. It has a dry, nutty taste that is best used in savory dishes such as stews and soups. It can also be used in cocktails and some desserts.
Neither sherry vinegar nor sherry wine is better than the other. Embrace their distinct qualities and utilize them as needed to elevate your culinary creations.