The history of aging wine in a solera dates back to the early Spaniards. It is an age-old blending and maturation system used to maintain a style consistency in some fortified wines. It is used most notably in Spain’s sherry industry.
What is solera? The solera system consists of a stock of wine in barrels, each of a different year of development. The final stage of finished wine is called the solera. The supporting steps, or scales, are called criaderas (Spanish for nursery). At bottling, 10 to 30% of the wine is drawn from the solera, which is replaced by wine from earlier barrels, which are a little younger and less complex.
You never completely empty the solera; there is always wine from preceding years left inside the barrel. With this process, the old wine infuses the younger wine with depth and character. From there, you continue to transfer wine from the younger barrels to the older barrels until the youngest criadera is refreshed with new wine. (This is usually done yearly). There can be differences in the number of scales from the starting criadera to the solera. This is largely dependent on the style of the finished wine the wine maker wishes to produce. For example: eight barrels can be used instead of six.
We at Tackitt Family Vineyards have adopted this aging process to produce our Dream Tyme Dessert Wine. We use late harvest Zinfandel grapes grown west of HWY 101 near Templeton, California and add a splash of Petite Syrah for that added touch of color. Dream Tyme was established in 2002 by dessert winemaker Scott English. As the years continue to pass by, the solera will only increase in its complexity and depth. Currently, our solera consists of 6 barrels, or 5 criaderas and one solera. As Tackitt Family Vineyards grows, so will our solera with new criaderas being added each year.