Curious Small Sips #7: Solera System

Small Sips 7 Solera

NEW RHONE SUPPLIER SAINT COSME’S ‘LITTLE JAMES’ GRENACHE (whose jaunty label appears below) is unique in that – unlike the vast majority of table wines – it is not the product of one harvest but is instead a blend of wines from a number of years. This is done through the use of the traditional solera system, a method of ‘fractional blending’ that is most associated with Sherry. (Relax! This wine’s not like Sherry.) Basically, the solera comprises a system of interconnected barrels from which a portion of wine is drawn each year, before being topped up with young wine from the latest vintage. Over time you get a consistent ‘house style’ of wine with a more-or-less constant average age. The use of edgy tricks like this invariably puts wines outside of the appellation fold and so it is here, with Little James trading as a ‘Vin de France’ even though it is really a solera-matured Côtes du Rhône. Bureaucracy! ;)

Little James

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