Explaining my passion for sherry wine isn’t always easy to do concisely or eloquently. González Byass has made the job easier for me by creating their short video series the Pillars of Jerez. I had the unique opportunity to interview co-host Christopher Canale-Parola for behind-the-scenes commentary. Here’s what we discussed with regards to the fifth pillar on criaderas and soleras.
Seana – I have the hardest time simplifying the solera system. How did you do that in two minutes?
Christopher – Visuals help a lot! We’re standing in front of a whole barrel system, and we even simplify it in our communication. When you’re standing in front of three or four barrels and doing it with your hands, it makes it much more obvious.
We’re explaining how the fresh wine goes in the top, and once or twice a year we take out a third or a quarter and put it in the barrel below. In addition to this, as Antonio and I are talking, it fades to an image of a barrel, and we have two different shadings so that one of them goes lighter than the other, so you can visualize how it’s been moved down.
C – When I’m doing a tasting, what I sometimes do is get four wine glasses and I’ll take a drink out of [the fourth] one. I’ll top it up [from the third one], then top that up [from the second one], then also top that up [from the first one], and then say that’s where the fresh wine goes in. It’s a very simple thing, but people can associate the same wine moving through the barrels never being completely empty. It’s not that hard a concept, just tricky in the beginning.
S – People who aren’t as familiar with sherry want to know the vintage to know how old it is.
C – That’s one of the classic footholds of people who come into the wine world – first, they look at the color of the wine. Is it a white wine or a red wine? Then they look at grape varietals. Is this a grape that they know, and do they like it? Then beyond that, they look at the year. These are easy footholds. So if you take them away, sherry makes it challenging for people a little bit. Because it’s so different, you do have to hold their hand through it and give them a little information.
S – It’s challenging for me when I introduce others to sherry and they still just don’t get it.
C – If someone in that position goes to Jerez, and they sit down and have a load of food, get poured a glass of wine, and they drink it, and it goes with the food, they’ll think WOW that’s amazing! It wasn’t sitting down with the wine maker and learning about the solera system, or learning about the varietals and the vineyard or whatever it might be. It’s just that moment where it’s treated like a wine. You look at all the tables around you and they’re drinking it. It’s that moment or realization that it’s just the perfect wine for the cuisine. Don’t ask anymore questions, just get another glass.
That’s the experience, the epiphany, for a lot of people; more than studying it and realizing in a very cold, intellectual way that it’s a very good wine. Understanding it emotionally and feeling the flavor combination and looking around and seeing everyone doing it and realizing it is a thing and it’s not so weird.
S – I’m hoping that Portland gets there.
Stay tuned for the rest of our conversation regarding classic wines and the creative spirit of sherry expert, Antonio Flores!