Solera


Solera
Sherry solera

Solera is a process for aging liquids such as wine, beer, 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 other containers used in the process. Products which are often solera aged include Sherry, Madeira, Port wine, Marsala, Mavrodafni, Muscat, and Muscadelle wines; Balsamic, Commandaria, and Sherry vinegars; Spanish brandy; and rums.

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Solera process

In the solera process, a succession of containers are filled with the product over a series of equal aging intervals (usually a year). One container is filled for each interval. At the end of the interval after the last container is filled, the oldest container in the solera is tapped for part of its content, which is bottled. Then that container is refilled from the next oldest container, and that one in succession from the second-oldest, down to the youngest container, which is refilled with new product. This procedure is repeated at the end of each aging interval. The transferred product mixes with the older product in the next barrel.

Sherry solera

No container is ever drained, so some of the earlier product always remains in each container. 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 cycles.

Aging

The age of product from the first bottling is the number of containers times the aging interval. As the solera matures, the average age of product asymptotically approaches the difference between the number of containers (K) and the fraction of a container transferred or bottled (α), divided by the fraction of a container which is transferred or bottled {(K-α)/α}.

For instance, suppose the solera consists of four barrels of wine, and half of each barrel is transferred once a year. At the end of the fourth year (and each subsequent year), half the fourth barrel is bottled. This first bottling is aged four years. The second bottling will be half four years old and half five years old (the wine left in the last barrel at the previous cycle), for an average age of four and a half years. The third bottling will be: one fourth wine that was six years in the fourth barrel, one fourth wine that was four years in the third barrel and one year in the fourth barrel, one fourth that was three years in the third barrel and two years in the fourth barrel, and one fourth that was two years in the second barrel, one year in the third, and one year in the fourth: average age five years. After 20 years, the output of the solera would be a mix of wine from 4 to 20 years old, averaging slightly under 7 years. The average age asymptotically converges on seven years as the solera continues.

Solera production

The output of the solera is the fraction of the last container taken off for bottling each cycle. The amount of product tied up in the solera is usually many times larger than the production. This means that a solera is a very large capital investment for a winemaker. If done with actual barrels, the producer may have several soleras running in parallel. For a small producer, a solera may be the largest capital investment, and a valuable asset to be passed down to descendants.

Brandy de Jerez barrels aging

Wine produced from a solera cannot formally have a vintage date because it is a blend of vintages from many years. However, some bottlings are labeled with an age for marketing reasons. It is unclear whether such age indications denotes the average age, or the age of the oldest batch.

Solera in different countries

This process is known as solera in Spanish, and was developed by the producers of sherry. In a Spanish sherry solera, the vintner may transfer about a third of each barrel a year. A solero sherry has to be at least three years old when bottled.

In Sicily, where Marsala wine is made, the system is called in perpetuum.

Solera vinification is used in the making of Mavrodafni ("Black Laurel"), a fortified red dessert wine made in the Northern Peloponnese in Greece. Exceptional Mavrodafni vintages are released every 20 or 30 years: they are of minimal availability and highly expensive.

Vintners in Rutherglen, Australia produce fortified muscat-style and Tokay-style wines using the solera process.

Glenfiddich, a Speyside distillery in Scotland has a 15 year old whisky that uses a process that is similar to the solera process. The whisky is labelled as their "15 year old single malt Scotch Whisky".

In France some producers use the Perpétuelle method to blend base wines for Champagne across the years for Non Vintage Champagne such as Francis Boulard Cuvée Petraea.

Possible solera abuse

Italian labeling laws permit blended vinegar to be labeled with the age of the oldest vinegar in the blend. Some balsamic vinegar producers have established solera aging facilities, and claimed the age of the entire solera as the age of the vinegar produced. In the case of the more strictly-controlled and more expensive vinegars, such as aceto balsamico tradizionale, this labeling practice is not permitted.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • solera — sustantivo femenino 1. Carácter tradicional de un lugar o de un grupo: casa con solera, marca de solera. Éste es uno de los barrios con más solera de Madrid. 2. Vejez de un vino: Este vino no tiene solera. vino* de solera. 3. Uso/registro:… …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • Solera — bezeichnet: ein Verfahren zur Herstellung von Sherry, siehe Sherry#Das Solera Verfahren Solera ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Javier Solera (* 1973), costa ricanischer Tennisspieler Temistocle Solera (1815–1878), italienischer Dichter… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Solera — Vieillissement en solera pour le Xérès. La solera est un système de vieillissement du vin utilisé en Espagne. Sommaire 1 Mode opératoire …   Wikipédia en Français

  • solera — ► sustantivo femenino 1 Conjunto de cualidades, recibidas por tradición o herencia, que distingue a una persona o cosa de las de su clase: ■ la suya es una casa con solera; le han regalado un vino de solera. SINÓNIMO abolengo raigambre 2 ENOLOGÍA …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • solera — sōˈlerə noun ( s) Etymology: Spanish, crossbeam, stone base, mother liquor, from suelo ground, floor, dregs, from Latin solum ground, base 1. : a set of Spanish sherry vats arranged in tiers usually three high in a storage shed …   Useful english dictionary

  • Solera — Para otros usos de este término, véase Solera (desambiguación). Solera, (del latín solarĭa > de solum, suelo), pieza de madera que se coloca horizontal en la parte superior de un muro en el mismo sentido de éste, y sobre el cual se apoya la… …   Wikipedia Español

  • solera — /soh lair euh/; Sp. /saw le rddah/, n. 1. (esp. in Spain) a series of casks, graded according to age, in which sherries and brandies are stored while maturing. 2. a classification for the sherries or brandies having the greatest maturity in a… …   Universalium

  • Solera — Solère, Solera, Soulère Soit un matronyme formé sur Soler (voir ce nom), soit plutôt un toponyme pour lequel il est difficile de trancher entre le sol et le soleil, le problème est exactement le même qu avec Soler. Cependant, comme le mot solera… …   Noms de famille

  • solera — {{#}}{{LM S36204}}{{〓}} {{SynS37106}} {{[}}solera{{]}} ‹so·le·ra› {{《}}▍ s.f.{{》}} {{<}}1{{>}} Carácter tradicional o arraigado por el uso o la costumbre. {{<}}2{{>}} Vejez o carácter añejo de un vino. {{<}}3{{>}} Superficie inferior del interior …   Diccionario de uso del español actual con sinónimos y antónimos

  • solera — solera1 (Del lat. solarĭa, de solum, suelo). 1. f. Madero asentado de plano sobre fábrica para que en él descansen o se ensamblen otros horizontales, inclinados o verticales. 2. Madero de sierra, de dimensiones varias según las regiones. 3.… …   Diccionario de la lengua española


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