Solera - Wikipedia
october 2017 by jm
Fascinating stuff -- from Felix Cohen's excellent twitter thread.wine aging solera sherry muscat vinegar brandy beer rum whiskey whisky brewing spain
Solera is a process for aging liquids such as wine, beer, vinegar, and brandy, by fractional blending in such a way that the finished product is a mixture of ages, with the average age gradually increasing as the process continues over many years. The purpose of this labor-intensive process is the maintenance of a reliable style and quality of the beverage over time. Solera means literally "on the ground" in Spanish, and it refers to the lower level of the set of barrels or other containers used in the process; the liquid (traditionally transferred from barrel to barrel, top to bottom, the oldest mixtures being in the barrel right "on the ground"), although the containers in today's process are not necessarily stacked physically in the way that this implies, but merely carefully labeled. Products which are often solera aged include Sherry, Madeira, Lillet, Port wine, Marsala, Mavrodafni, Muscat, and Muscadelle wines; Balsamic, Commandaria, some Vins doux naturels, and Sherry vinegars; Brandy de Jerez; beer; rums; and whiskies. Since the origin of this process is undoubtedly out of the Iberian peninsula, most of the traditional terminology was in Spanish, Portuguese, or Catalan.
october 2017 by jm
"The couple, who had no experience of wine-making but much faith in professorial expertise…"
september 2016 by jm
I love this story -- a wealthy couple buy a vineyard in the Languedoc for its theoretically-optimal microclimate for wine-making. Defying what one's preconceptions would expect (mine included!), the results were fantastic.books science languedoc wine academia microclimates preconceptions
In the Languedoc there is a vineyard that teaches us an important lesson about textbook learning and its application to the world. In the early Seventies it was bought by a wealthy couple, who consulted professors Emile Peynaud and Henri Enjalbert, the world’s leading academic oenologist and oenological geologist respectively. Between them these men convinced the couple that their new vineyard had a theoretically ideal microclimate for wine-making. When planted with theoretically ideal vines whose fruits would be processed in the optimal way according to the up-to-date science of oenology, this vineyard had the potential to produce wine to match the great first growths of Bordeaux. The received wisdom that great wine was the product of an inscrutable (and untransferable) tradition was quite mistaken, the professors said: it could be done with hard work and a fanatical attention to detail. The couple, who had no experience of wine-making but much faith in professorial expertise, took a deep breath and went ahead.
If life were reliably like novels, their experiment would have been a disaster. In fact Aimé and Véronique Guibert have met with a success so unsullied that it would make a stupefying novel (it has already been the subject of a comatogenic work of non-fiction). The first vintage they declared (in 1978) was described by Gault Millau as ‘Château Lafite du Languedoc’; others have been praised to the heights by the likes of Hugh Johnson and Robert Parker. The wine is now on the list at the Tour d’Argent and the 1986 vintage retails at the vineyard for £65 a bottle. The sole shadow on the lives of these millionaires is cast by the odd hailstorm.
No one to whom I have begun recounting the story believes it will end well. Most people are extremely unwilling to grant that faith in textbook knowledge should ever be crowned with success. We have a very strong narrative bias against such stories. It is a bias we forget once our children fall sick or we have to travel in an aeroplane, but so long as we are in storytelling mode we simply deny that systematic textbook reasoning can make headway against whimsy and serendipity. Apart from anything else, it is deeply unfair that it should.
september 2016 by jm
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