Last time we learned that Marsala wine is not just for cooking. It’s actually a fortified wine that is sometimes made using the Solera system.
A Solera is a system used for blending wines and is a way of keeping a consistent style of wine for years.
The diagram illustrates the system as a stack of barrels with the oldest barrels of wine on the bottom and the youngest barrels of wine on top.
Wine is bottled from the barrels on the bottom, but these barrels are never drained more than part-way. After being partially drained for bottling, the bottom row of barrels is refilled with wine from the row above, and those are filled with the wine from the barrels above them. And so on until the newest vintage enters the top row and begins its aging journey down through the system, being blended each year by the winemaker.
Since the barrels are never completely drained, the oldest barrels on the bottom always contains some of the original vintage used in the Solera.
The Solera system is not only used for Marsala wines, but also for other fortified wines such as Port. And, this can also be used in the production of non-vintage sparkling wines. So, if you’ve ever wondered how a winery can produce such a consistent non-vintage product year-after-year, they may be using some form of this system.