The 64 year-old Adobe Cellar contains a few wooden tanks, numerous barrels and puncheons, an odd assortment of hoses, equipment and of course, aging Ports. How a few of these contents are pieced together reveal a deeper story — that of the Old Vine Tinta Solera. The charm and warmth of the inside of that building may captivate our attention, but we must also recognize the value and history of the contents.
It is fitting that the Adobe Cellar is entrusted to house the Old Vine Tinta Port Solera. Both are historic and iconic — and both reach back to the beginnings of what the Ficklin brand has become. The bricks and timbers of that building were constructed with functional purpose — the Old Vine Tinta Port was the result of that purpose. For many years, the wine withdrawn from the Solera was known universally as Ficklin Port — simple enough. Name designations and labels have changed through the years, but not the traditional methods or the hand-crafted care that goes into producing it.
A solera can be described as a fractional blending system and is typically used for aging Sherries in Spain. The word solera is derived from the Spanish term “suelo” meaning soil or ground, indicating that in the physical stacks and tiers of barrels, the ground or floor level will contain the finished wines. Wines are removed from that last level ready to bottle. Consequently, wines from intermediate levels refill or top-off those barrels. The Old Vine Tinta Solera at Ficklin consists of 67 puncheons and 256 barrels, and only a fraction of the contents of those barrels is removed and readied for bottling. A similar percentage is withdrawn from each puncheon to top-off the barrels. By blending younger Ports with consistency of flavor for this system to refill the puncheons, the finished product that is removed and bottled from the Solera is extremely constant from bottling to bottling and year to year.
The younger Ports used to blend for the Solera provide a rich and youthful exuberance of flavors and aromas, while the older wines contribute the softer texture and mature character — the wines blended into that Solera undergo a wonderful transformation. A unique marriage of young and old.
The Old Vine Tinta Solera not only contains a very special wine that has become the flagship of Ficklin Ports, but is also literally a living picture of the history of the wines produced through the years. The first wines used to build that Solera were from the very earliest years of the winery’s harvests — the ’48, ’49, ’50, and on through the years. Every puncheon and barrel in that system, every bottle, every glass, and every sip of the Old Vine Tinta Port contains a diminishing percentage of those first Ports. Truly historic and iconic — enjoy every sip!