What is the Solera method?
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Say Solera and think of the Caribbean, of fortified Spanish wines (above all Sherry and Madeira), of tropical rum-based cocktails on some beach shaded by palm trees.
Solera and Grappa is not the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, the Solera method, also called criaderas y soleras, is not the most used to produce the greatest Italian distillate. Yet there are those who, like Marolo, in his incessant curiosity as an innovator have chosen to apply this aging system to Grappa from native Piedmont vines, obtaining surprising results in some ways.
But what exactly are we talking about when we say Solera method? Let’s see it in this post.
Solera is a particular method of aging and blending of wines or wood spirits that we could define as dynamic. The term dynamic means that the product, before being bottled, is decanted into a number of wooden barrels pre-established by the refiner, in an ascending order from top to bottom, according to a pyramid arrangement of the barrels, which are stacked.
Each passage from the upper to the lower barrels creates a new blend of the distillate itself, because the same distillate is contained in the barrels of the lower rows (called criaderas), but more refined than the upper one.
All clear? Let’s take an example.
First of all, the pile of barrels is created, divided into criaderas (which literally means “incubators” in Spanish), that is, into barrel layers. Let’s assume that this stack has three floors, as in the illustration below.
Then, starting from Solera (which means “soil”), the barrels are filled with grappas of different vintage: for example, the Solera with a 5-year-old grappa, the 1st criadera with a 4-year-old grappa and the 2nd criadera with a 3-year-old grappa. At this point, the Solera is emptied by a percentage set by the refiner, and filled with the same percentage of the barrels above. This decanting is done for all the floors of the criaderas, so that the upper level, containing the younger grappa, always forms a blend with the grappa of the lower level.
Finally, let’s assume that this process is carried out for two years. In Solera we will have a 7 year old grappa blended with a 6 year old grappa and a 5 year old grappa. The aging of Solera is always indicated with the number of years of the oldest distillate.
Why is the Solera method used?
Using the complex Solera method in a workmanlike manner can give great satisfaction in terms of final organoleptic qualities. If produced with single-variety grappas of exceptional quality starting from very fresh pomace – as Marolo always strives to do – Grappa Solera can become a distillate of rare richness of nuances and complexity. The blend of young and older grappas creates a unique and very enjoyable mix, in which the vivacity of the aromas of young spirits skilfully mixes with the tertiary aromas of aging in wood, giving a deep and at the same time playful Grappa Solera, a paired par excellence with desserts or exceptional after a meal. But at the same time, a grappa to drink at any time, never too monumental or austere, to offer to friends without too many thoughts.
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