Characteristics of aging in ‘Soleras and Criaderas’

If one characterises Sherry wines and Montilla wines, it is undoubtedly for the mastery of aging in fine woods. A unique method of preparation across the world, often unknown, fascinating, which confers a special character and long life to wines from these wineries.

Today we want to talk about this special system of aging. Get ready, because in this post we will focus on the characteristics and functions of the traditional system of criaderas y soleras.

soleras A Jerez criaderas y soleras system. By Andrew Wilkinson (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In Jerez we can find different systems of criaderas and soleras, depending on the number of scales or levels of stacking barrels. For example, a floor with three stories of stacked barrels will consist of three scales.

The wines ready for bottling is always drawn from the solera, or lower level, so named because it is traditionally always situated near to the floor. The amount removed or extracted to be bottled, will be replaced with the same amount of wine from the barrels on the first criadera, immediately above the floor level.

This replacement is called rocío. In turn, the wine extracted from the first criadera is replaced with wine from the second criadera, leading us to climb step by step to the upper level, or sobretabla, which is completely filled with new wine.

Importantly, removal of wine is always partial, and does not exceed one third of the contents of each barrel. Therefore, as the barrels are never completely emptied, the product of the sills will always be a resulting mixture of wines from every one of the vintages. However, on the one hand, this means that the wines produced with this system never be labeled with a specific vintage, and on the other, that product quality is maintained year after a year.

Do you want to know some wines made by criaderas and soleras? Here are some suggestions:

Tío Pepe. Undoubtedly one of the finest and most famous Jerez wines in the world. Made 100% from the native grape variety, Palomino, Tio Pepe undergoes soleras and criaderas for at least five years before arriving in your glass. Fresh, pungent, salty, authentic. Everything you expect from a great Jerez wine.

Amontillado EscuadrillaBodegas Lustau was one of the world’s first wineries to produce sherrys of the highest quality, and this Amontillado Escuadrilla is a good example of their magnificent work. This is a 100% Palomino Fino which undergoes soleras and criaderas over the years, this fermentative aging gives way to a process of oxidation, once the must is broken. A complex and extremely interesting wine.

Alvear Solera Cream. Now we travel to Montilla Moriles to pay tribute to this Cream (a mixture of fragrant wine and naturally sweet wine) aged for at least 20 years through the traditional system of soleras and criaderas. A joy in every way, awarded no less than 95 Parker points, at a scandalous price! Do not miss it!

Taking note of these recommendations? You’ll love them!

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