When you read about Sherry and Brandy de Jerez you will undoubtedly encounter the term Solera. Increasingly we also seeing solera on the labels of other spirits such as Rum. Also, Italy’s famous Balsamic vinegar – the good or real versions – are aged in a similar process.
A solera is a unique aging method that blends younger wines or spirits with older in order to maintain a consistent and perfectly mature “house” style from year to year.
To understand the solera system, imagine multiple rows of casks stacked one upon the other. In Jerez, Spain they call these rows scales or criaderas.
The bottom row or criaderas contains wine (or sprit) soon to be bottled. When the wine is drawn from the bottom casks, only a portion (typically one-quarter or one-third) is extracted. The cask is then topped with wine from the row immediately above it, which is topped with wine from the row above it and so on throughout the stack of casks. The top row of casks is the refreshed with new wine or spirit.
The group of casks is often referred to as the solera while Sherry and Brandy de Jerez producers refer to only the bottom or oldest row as the solera.