Spanish vinegars. Juan Manuel Sanz/©ICEX
Spain is famed for its wines, and wines are the essential raw material in Spain for vinegar. The Spanish wine vinegars that result from careful fermentation of white or red wines or cava, whether sweet or dry, are much praised for their intense aroma, the wide spectrum of flavors and the many varieties available. An invitation to try out different food & vinegar pairings.
Vinegar has been known since ancient times and its origin was apparently linked to the production of alcoholic drinks. Its capacity for preserving food must have been noted early on by ancient Mediterranean peoples. Amongst the Romans, vinegar was considered a gourmet flavoring, alongside other condiments such as garum , pepper, oil or honey. It was one of the ten basic ingredients used in the recipe book drawn up by Caius Gavius Apicius, the earliest western recipe book that has come down to us.
In the Middle Ages, the Arabs in Spain appreciated the sourness of sour milk, lemon juice, bitter orange, pomegranate, verjuice and vinegar. In many cases, it was the sour element in dishes that gave them their names. It may seem surprising that the Arabs should have used wine vinegar (wine being prohibited by their religion), nevertheless, in addition to the other acidifiers mentioned, it was widely used for cooking vegetables, for dressing capers and olives, for sauces and for marinating meat and fish.
The Spanish Jews or Sephardim also liked the acid flavors obtained from products similar to the above-mentioned, which they used in similar ways. A salad of celery and lettuce dressed with vinegar was a must for the first dinner of the Jewish Passover.
Vinegars to Suit all Tastes
Spanish gastronomy is the direct heir to all these culinary traditions, and is very generous in its use of vinegar, which is added to salads, gazpachos, sauces, pickles, and marinades. In fact, Spaniards are amongst the world's largest consumers of vinegar.
Wine vinegars are made in many wine-producing parts of Spain such as Galicia, Castile-La Mancha, La Rioja and Catalonia. Special mention should be made of those made in Andalusia with the wines from Jerez (that is, Sherry vinegars) and Condado de Huelva because they are aged in oak barrels using the traditional solera and criaderas system which makes their wines so characteristic. These exquisite mahogany-colored vinegars are covered by their respective Designations of Origin.
Aromatized vinegar is also a popular traditional product. The aromas used include garlic, lavender, rosemary, tarragon, and thyme, and there are also saffron, raspberry and other fruit vinegars. Smooth, fine vinegar is also made from cider, a typical drink in the Principality of Asturias and the province of Guipúzcoa (Basque Country).
These flavored condiments can be used in many ways. They are excellent for marinades and mayonnaise, and can replace wine as an ingredient in hot sauces for meat and fish.
- Cider Vinegar
- Vinagre de Jerez PDO
- Vinagre del Condado de Huelva PDO
3rd (Source: Spanish Vinegars Producers Association).
|Year||Volume (liters)||Value (thousands of €)|
Source: Spanish Vinegars Producers Association
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