About Me


Gavin Hubble - (BSc & Post Grad. Business Marketing) - I started working in the wine industry over 23 years ago in New Zealand. Working in; wine retail, sales, wine production, label & packaging design, marketing, wine buying, consulting and wine education. I am responsible for the Brand Health of 60+ wine brands distributed here in New Zealand. Wine Brands from New Zealand, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Chile and Argentina. I work closely with the Trade Industry - (Retail Stores & Restaurants) introducing, educating and positioning exciting and unique brands to wine enthusiasts all over the world.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Solera System

The Solera process is the aging of liquids like wine, vinegar and brandy, by fractional blending in such a way that the finished product is a mixture of ages, with the average age gradually increasing as the process continues over many years. A solera is literally the set of barrels or containers used in the process. Products which are often solera aged include; Sherry, Madeira, Marsala, Mavrodafni, Muscat, Balsamic, Commandaria, Sherry vinegars, Spanish brandy and rums.

 

This process known as solera (a Spanish word), was developed by the producers of sherry. In a Spanish sherry solera, the vintner may transfer up to a third of each barrel, each year. A solero sherry has to be at least three years old when bottled. The traditional Sherry Solera is exposed to the sun, hence the name. The warmth of the sun encourages an active fermentation and aging. This unique blending system consists of several rows of small oak barrels stacked upon one another grouped by vintages. The oldest is at the bottom and the most recent at the top.
At bottling, approximately one third of the contents of each of the barrels on the bottom level is removed. Sherry from the row immediately above will replace what was removed and so on until a complete transfer is made from top to bottom.
No container is ever drained, so some of the earlier product always remains in each barrel. This remnant diminishes to a tiny level, but there can be significant traces of product much older than the average, depending on the transfer fraction. In theory traces of the very first product placed in the solera may be present even after 50 or 100 years.
In Sicily, where Marsala wine is made, the system is called 'in perpetuum' (Latin - forever).
Some Sherry and especially Madeira can be labelled with the word 'Solera' and a date. This is a marketing strategy, as it simply means the year that the Solera was started, and the bottle may contain trace amounts from that year, at best.

4 comments:

  1. Wine Guy, great work here, however please note the following technical correction.

    When these wines are put into barrel, they have already completed fermentation and are fortified to between 18 and 21%.

    The sun is used to BAKE the wine, thus oxidizing the ethanol and creating an ethanol chain of Aldehyde's, that are critical to the flavor development of Sherry production.

    Here in California, we heat the wine to 125-135F to recreate the same conditions, plus adding O2 to oxidize the ethanol in the wine and create the aldehydic environment.

    Keep up the great work.

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  2. I would like to make a slight correction on terminology.

    You said "The traditional Sherry Solera is exposed to the sun, hence the name". Well, that is not true, at least in southern Spain.

    The name solera comes from "suelo" (floor). The system used (solera or solera-criadera), as you explained and as the image you used clearly illustrates, consists of racking the one from a barrel on top to others below. The wine you extract for drinking and bottling is always from the barrels nearest to the floor. The others lines of barrels (criaderas) above are used for ageing (criar).



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  3. In fact

    Solera When ageing Generoso wines, the last phase in the process. Wine is periodically drawn from the lower casks which never move, and refreshed with an equal quantity of wine from a criadera or cask above. The name solera is derived from the fact that traditionally the last casks used in this phase are those nearest to the floor (suelo in Spanish)

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