Monday, 11 February 2008

The stars of Jerez and Huelva

Spain boasts an interesting variety of premium quality vinegars. Amongst them, two enjoy the protection of a Denomination of Origin (D.O.), a seal granted by the European Union. These are Vinagre de Jerez and Vinagre del Condado de Huelva. These official stamps guarantee the quality, uniqueness, origin and specific production method used to obtain these excellent vinegars.

Hence, Jerez, an important wine producing area, these days prides itself on having some excellent vinegars that have already achieved a similar status and name to the region’s renowned Sherry wines. It is the fact that they are aged in oak or chestnut casks -generally using the “criaderas y soleras” method- that probably has a major influence in differentiating these vinegars from the rest. The main varieties of grapes used to make “Vinagre de Jerez” are Palomino, Listán and Pedro Ximénez, and the area of production that is actually protected includes the following towns: Jerez de la Frontera, San Lucar de Barrameda, Puerto de Santa María, Trebujena, Chiclana de la Frontera, Chipiona, Puerto Real, Rota –all in Cádiz- and Lebrija –in Sevilla-. Nevertheless, the ageing process can only take place in the first three towns, if the final product is to fall into the Denomination of Origin mark.

Moreover, this procedure should take place in chestnut and oak casks of capacity no bigger than 1.000 litres. As mentioned earlier, the most traditional ageing method in Jerez is this of “criaderas and soleras” which consists in extracting some vinegar from the “viejas soleras” or old casks placed underneath and subsequently filling them with vinegar removed from the “criaderas” or casks laid in the rows above the “soleras”. The method of “añadas” or vintages, where the vinegar is left to age in the same cask, is also accepted by the Regulatory Body. Finally, depending on the period of time left to mature, there are two categories: “Vinagre de Jerez” for vinegars that have an ageing period of about 6 months and “Vinagre de Jerez Reserva”, applied when the vinegar has been aged for at least 2 years. The ageing procedure guarantees a final product that, due to its range of aromas and elegant flavours, confers a personal taste to any dish.

On the other hand, vinegars protected by the Condado de Huelva D.O., distinguish amongst two big groups: Condado de Huelva vinegars prepared with wines from the Protected Denomination of Origin and Condado de Huelva Aged vinegars. Amongst this last category there are three groups: “Solera” vinegars are those that have been left to age for more than six months and less than a year; “Reserva” vinegars have been enriched with “Condado Viejo” wine and left to age for more than a year, and “Añada” vinegars have also been enriched with “Condado Viejo” but left to age for a period of 3 years.

For a fine selection of Spanish vinegars please visit our Spanish food online store.


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