When someone says “solera” I think Sherry, not Champagne. That’s what makes the R. Dumont & Fils Solera Reserve Brut so fascinating. What is a solera? Here’s a diagram showing how it works when it comes to Sherry. It’s not in English, but you get the idea:
As Sherry is drawn off and bottled, some wine from the casks above gets extracted and moved down a level. The highest level gets topped off with new wine. So the Sherry on the bottom levels is a mix of many vintages. Actually, in many ways Sherry is like non-vintage Champagne: a blend of multiple years where each vintage contributes something the final product. The wine is influenced by not only the characteristics of each year, but also by the winemaker.
So how is this done regarding Champagne? From the importer of R. Dumont & Fils, Wine Traditions:
“Bernard Dumont has dedicated one stainless steel tank to the project which was first filled in 1991. He works exclusively with chardonnay for this cuvée and has been adding to the tank every year, making it at present, a blend of approximately 20 vintages. This solera system produced its first release in 2010. One of the most striking features of this champagne is the different effect created by producing a champagne from aged wine (the aging occurs after the first fermentation) followed by the typical duration of two years ‘sur lattes’ as contrasted with a champagne produced from relatively young wines which are aged for a long time after the secondary fermentation and thus remain in contact with the lees ‘sur lattes’ for an extended period.”
The Champagne doesn’t taste like Sherry. But it is bracing and lively like, well, a fino Sherry. It has a certain distinctness that’s hard to describe but, when you drink it, you will know what I mean. So go buy a bottle! (Please.) Average national price on wine-searcher.com: $47 (This is a great deal for a Champagne of this quality. My cost was in the low $50s at Seattle’s Metropolitan Market.)
Would you like to learn more about Sherry? Here are a few posts to peruse:
Podcast: The Versatility of Sherry With Master Sommelier Chris Tanghe Solera diagram via Wikimedia/Denkhenk