My first ever Welsh Wine of the Week

Tom Cannavan

Administrator
Andrew, last Solaris wine I had was from Denmark.

Skærsøgaard, Solaris Classic 2013

Jutland, Denmark, Dry White, Cork, 12.0% abv
(2017) 87/100. Served blind along with its red partner, my guess for this was that it was from England and was made from the cross-bred grape, Bacchus. That turned out to be a fairly inspired guess (entirely wrong, but still inspired!) because Denmark's vine-growing conditions are, apparently, very similar to England's, and Solaris, like Bacchus, is a cross-bred grape with Riesling in its DNA, and popular in both England and Denmark for its ability to ripen in cool, marginal conditions. With 5g/l residual sugar this was easy to drink rather than being sweet, and had a musky nose, somewhere between a Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat, and very nice fruit and acidity on the palate. Reminding me strongly of some English wines, perhaps a touch of Colombard style from Southwest France, and very nice - though it apparently cost more than £15 when purchased in Denmark.
 
Solaris is becoming more common. As the locations mentioned above (Wales, Denmark, Poland) suggest, it was bred specifically for cold and wet climates (high resistance to fungal disease and like many of those 1970s German crosses, produces high must weights without need for very much sunshine). What I'm not sure is whether it's a pure hybrid or some sort of hybrid-vinifera cross but I'm sure I can remedy that...ah, Wiki actually reckons it has Muscat Ottonel as half of one parent (??).

Lest you should think I am not aware of the fine wines Wales is capable of producing, I have during Lockdown purchased a number of wines, sparkling and still, from Ancre Hill. Their particular patch of Monmouthshire is so climatically benign that they can operate as a fully biodynamic vineyard, so perhaps we need to watch the wet Wales jokes. They make very good bottle fermented sparklers, a feature of a few Oddities lunches back in the day, but I also like their frothy red petnat, made from Triomphe (d'Alsace) and their "Orange" from Albariño. The latter has one of the best labels from the British Isles, a kind of Clockwork Orange lady in traditional Welsh Costume cartoon.
 
...ooh, I almost forgot. You know Daniel Ham (of Langham Wines in Dorset)? He has (or had) a side project called Offbeat Wines, and he released a Solaris from fruit grown at Ottery St-Mary over in Devon in 2018. I thought it was a lovely fun wine but I haven't seen it since. I checked my notes and he only made 360 bottles. But I know one or two here (Mark C) are fans of Langham and might have tried it.
 
There is a local Solaris vineyard - and when I say local, I mean it is in my home city of St Albans.

The nearby Frithsden Winery Vineyard (near Hemel Hempstead), which I have visited, has Solaris planted and I have had varietal Solaris from each

Solaris makes for a good clean fresh white wine, but I prefer Phoenix because it is more Sauvignon Blanc like.
 
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