Sherry Vinegar vs Sherry Cooking Wine – What’s The Difference?

Sherry Vinegar vs Sherry Cooking Wine

They can appear similar, but there is a huge difference when you compare sherry vinegar vs sherry cooking wine. They have the same source, which is sherry, but a few additions change their entire makeup.

Sherry vinegar is obviously not the same as conventional sherry, the drinking wine. Interestingly, sherry cooking wine isn’t the same as sherry either. While a wine like sherry definitely is a great choice for cooking, when the product is a cooking wine, it undergoes a change. 

Conventional cooking wines, including sherry cooking wine, have a large amount of salt added to them. The addition of salt renders the wine unfit for drinking, but has some culinary uses.

Let’s take a closer look and see the differences between sherry vinegar and sherry cooking wine.

Sherry Vinegar vs Sherry Cooking Wine – Differences And Details

Production Differences Between Sherry Vinegar And Cooking Wine

Both these ingredients come from sherry. However, much like white wine and white wine vinegar, there are stark differences between sherry vinegar and sherry cooking wine. So, if you ever wondered is sherry vinegar the same as sherry cooking wine, the answer is a clear no.

Let’s start with vinegar. Sherry vinegar is produced by introducing bacteria to sherry wine. The bacteria eats through the alcohol and processes it into acetic acid. It can take about six months for this fermentation to complete, though some manufacturers let the process age and can take as much as 10 years to produce the vinegar.

Sherry cooking wine has a different story. It starts off as a sherry wine, but has a significant quality of salt added. The addition of salt gives it a longer shelf life after the bottle is opened but renders it unfit for drinking. 

In a way, it’s useful for kitchens where only a small amount of sherry is required and that too occasionally. This way, you don’t risk a bottle of good sherry just because some recipe asked for a splash of the wine. 

However, sherry cooking wine isn’t usually made from the best wine, so the flavor is somewhat compromised. Also, because of the salt, its usage is limited to a few recipes.

Due to the nature of these products, they have a different shelf life. Sherry vinegar can practically last indefinitely. The acid of the vinegar acts as a preservative and keeps it safe. Of course, this assumes proper storage in a cool, dark, and dry area. 

Sherry cooking wine can last slightly more than a year if left unopened. Once opened, it lasts a little more than a month, though it should be refrigerated and kept airtight after opening.

On Taste, Flavor, And Appearance

Sherry vinegar and sherry cooking wine often have different colors, though it isn’t a sureshot point of difference. Sherry cooking wine may have a light golden color, to red, or a mahogany color. Of course, the color change isn’t abrupt, so you could have something like red sherry cooking wine with hues of mahogany.

Sherry vinegar usually has an intense amber color with some hues of mahogany. In some part, this is because vinegar usually comes from Palomino grapes. However, colors can vary depending on the type of wine (and ingredients) used.

The taste and flavor of both these products are very different. Sherry cooking wine tastes something like dry sherry with hints of nuttiness. There’s also the rather prominent salty taste because of the presence of salt.

Sherry vinegar has something of a mild flavor as compared to the intense and more common white vinegar. You’ll find it milder than red wine vinegar and its sweetness isn’t overpowering. The vinegar has a crisp acidic taste with notes of caramel and some nuttiness. 

While sherry vinegar is classified as mild, this is generally in comparison to the sharper taste of the common white vinegar. The mildness here doesn’t refer to the acidity. Indeed, sherry vinegar usually has the same acetic acid percentage (or even higher) as conventional white vinegar.

What Is Sherry Vinegar? An Explanation

Generally, sherry vinegar comes from sherry made from Palomino grapes and aged in American oak barrels. The vinegar has classifications depending on the aging. So, it gets different categories depending on whether it has aged at least six months, two years, or ten years.

Sherry is GI protected (geographic indicator) by the EU and only wine produced within the “sherry triangle” can be considered sherry. Some consider sherry vinegar to be protected by the same setup, but that isn’t necessarily true. Much like champagne vinegar, you’ll find sherry vinegar made in locations or countries beyond Spain.

The more the vinegar is aged, the more intense the flavor. Some flavor of the vinegar will depend on the grapes used and the quality of the wine. While sherry vinegar is made from sherry wine, it’s not the top-shelf wine being distilled. That’s not a problem because the vinegar is bound to take an entirely different route than the wine.

What Is Sherry Cooking Wine? A Look

Simply put, sherry cooking wine is sherry wine mixed with additional elements like salt, sugar, and preservatives. Given the presence of preservatives and salt or sugar, it’s not fit for drinking. The goal here is to provide the presence of sherry for recipes that need it and give the bottle a longer shelf life in the kitchen.

However, most cooks agree that sherry cooking wine (or any cooking wine for that matter) isn’t the best choice for a recipe. It’s a convenient, quick, and economical choice, but it’s not the best pick if you want flavor and taste. For better results, it’s good to use conventional sherry rather than the cooking wine.

A Look At Sherry And Its Relation To The Vinegar And Cooking Wine

Produced exclusively in Spain, sherry is made from three primary varieties of grapes – Palomino, Moscatel, and Pedro Ximenez. 

Sherry is a fortified wine, which means once the fermentation is done, it’s mixed with another spirit (usually brandy) to make it more intense and increase its alcohol content. Madeira wine from Portugal is somewhat related to sherry and is another great example of a fortified wine.

For sherry, once the grapes have been fermented, it’s given four classifications. 

The first type is the finest sherry with excellent flavor and aroma. On the second classification, sherry gets heavier and fuller-bodied. At third classification, the wine is given more time to develop and could be used for some sherry varieties like Amontillado. Fourth classification means the wine doesn’t look promising and is marked for distillation.

The first two classifications become top shelf sherry wine and get fortified. Some parts of the third classification can find use here too after fortification. Though there is no hard rule for this, cooking wines generally come from the third classification. Sherry vinegar is usually processed through the fourth classification.


What Are The Best Sherry Vinegar Substitutes?

For the best sherry vinegar substitutes, it’s preferable to use something that has the same mild flavor and sweet undertones without being overly sweet. For some recipes, the color might be important too, so your choice of substitute should consider that too. 

Top options to substitute sherry vinegar are:

  • Unseasoned rice wine vinegar.
  • Champagne vinegar.
  • Red wine vinegar.
  • White wine vinegar.
  • Apple cider vinegar – use this only if in a pinch.
  • Lime or lemon juice – again, use this only if you want some acid for the food but can’t use other options.

Can I Substitute Red Wine Vinegar For Sherry Vinegar?

It is possible to substitute red wine vinegar for sherry vinegar. When choosing this substitution, keep in mind that red wine vinegar is harsher than sherry vinegar. So, for substitution in a recipe, use less red wine vinegar as compared to the suggested amount of sherry vinegar. Better substitutes for sherry vinegar would be champagne vinegar or unseasoned rice wine vinegar.

Dry Sherry VS Sherry Vinegar?

Dry sherry wine is a type of sherry where a complete fermentation is allowed. Due to this, most of the sugar content of the grapes employed in fermentation is consumed. As a result, this wine isn’t as sweet as conventional sherry.

Sherry vinegar is very different from dry sherry. To produce vinegar, sherry wine’s alcohol content is processed into acetic acid. The vinegar has some sweetness though it’s on the milder side. 

As such, dry sherry and sherry vinegar are in two different food categories. Although when used for cooking, sherry vinegar can sometimes substitute dry sherry. This is largely a useful choice if you want a non-alcoholic substitute.

Can You Drink Sherry Cooking Wine?

Sherry cooking wine isn’t meant for drinking. Usually, cooking wine has added contents like salt, sugar, and preservatives. The aim is to give the wine a longer shelf life for use in the kitchen. However, these additions also mean that the wine is no longer flavorful or useful to drink.

The Bottom Line

Now that we’ve discussed sherry vinegar vs sherry cooking wine in detail, the differences become starkly visible. These products both fall into different food groups and have remarkably different characteristics. From origin to appearance and taste, both these foods have different outlooks, as detailed in this article.

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