Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny



Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dear Dr. Vinny,

What could I substitute for Sherry in a soup recipe?

—Adria, Conway, Mass.

Dear Adria,

I love Sherry. Like Port or Vermouth, Sherry is a fortified wine, which means a small amount of distilled spirits are added, boosting the alcohol by volume to the 15 to 22 percent range. It’s made in a variety of styles, from clear and pale to sweet and rich, but many show off wonderful complex nutty, spice, orange peel or caramel notes. The non-sweet versions are typically what are used in recipes, so you’ll see them referred to as “dry Sherry” (“dry” meaning the opposite of “sweet”).

One of the uses of Sherry in a recipe is to deglaze a pan. Any form of alcohol will accomplish more than water as a deglazing agent, because the proteins that can stick to the bottom of the pan are more soluble in alcohol, so deglazing the pan releases more of those flavors into your dish. Sherry also has a wonderful nutty, spicy note.

But you might not have a bottle of Sherry lying around when you’re about to make some lobster bisque. You can use a white wine, brandy or dry vermouth (or, depending on the recipe, red wine, Port, Madeira or Marsala, knowing they will leave some residual flavor). You can also try vinegars—apple cider, wine vinegar or even rice wine vinegar.

I’d recommend buying an affordable bottle of Sherry, because once you start cooking with it, you might understand why so many recipes call for it. Even better, because Sherry is fortified, it lasts far longer than an open bottle of table wine.

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers


WineRatings+ app: Download now for 365,000+ ratings.