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Oh Solera mio! When #wine ages forever...

Without any doubt, the Roussillon area in southern France produces some excellent red and white wines. Despite this, it always remained a synonym for sweet fortified wines to me, some of them with astonishing ageing techniques. Amongst those, the “Solera” system, originally from Spain, certainly is one of the most surprising ways to age wine. To create a Solera, you fist have set up a “Criadera”, by stacking several ranges of barrels. The first range, close to the ground, is called Solera, the other ranges are names first, second, third… Criadera. A Solera being an oxidative ageing system, the barrels are never totally filled up with wine.

The Solera range contains the oldest wine and wine to be bottled is always taken from those barrels, without ever emptying them! A part of the wine has always to be left in the barrels. After that, the Solera barrels are partly topped with wines from the first Criadera, the barrels of the first Criadera with wine from the second Criadera… and so on. The last or highest Criadare will be topped with young wine from a tank. This results in a “mixture” of several vintages in every barrel. Thus a Solera existing since half a century still contains a small amount of 50-year-old wine. In Spain they say, that in a Solera, the old wines will educate the young-ones…

Rivesaltes Solera

A recently tasted bottle of Rivesaltes Solera, bought some 15 years ago, promised to be as complex as the Solera system itself. Though only made from white grape varieties (Grenache gris and Macabeu), the wine surprised with its dark, amber colour and almost black lees that stuck to the bottle. A powerful bouquet rose from the glass: Cinnamon, caramel, dried flowers and tobacco, apricots and raisins, as well as the seductive smell of “old books”. Quit a lot of poetry in this glass…! The wine was pleasant on the palate, but less thrilling than in the nose. Smooth and syrupy, without being heavy. The final got a little hot with alcohol, but I had no problem to pardon this “faux pas” to the old lady.
A wine for cigars, a friend of chocolates and surprisingly good on finely sliced Pata Negra ham…

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