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Solera System

a dynamic system of maturation based on fractional blending, aimed at ensuring a consistency and continuity of expression. The best known—and generally most complex—examples of a ‘solera system’ are found in Jerez, where they are used to produce Sherry, but variations on it can be found elsewhere in Spain and beyond.

In Jerez, barrels are arranged into a series of tiers, called scales, each containing wine at different stages of development. When it is time for bottling, a portion of wine—typically no more than 1/3 but often far less—is drawn from the oldest group of barrels, which is itself called the solera. When wine is removed from solera—known as a saca—it is refreshed with an equivalent amount of wine from the next oldest scale, called the first criadera. The first criadera is in turn replenished with an equal portion of wine from the second criadera, and so on, through all of the scales of the solera. Thus, the solera in this expansive sense consists of the solera as well as all of the criaderas which feed it, and the process of withdrawal and replenishment is known as ‘running the scales’.

Similar but often less complex solera systems can be found elsewhere in Spain and beyond, including Solera Garnaxta d’Emporda and rare examples in appellations like Banyuls and Madeira.