|The huge sample room at Domecq|
|Blending at Gonzalez Byass in the 1950s (foto:charleshewitt/gettyimages)|
|Blending vats at Gonzalez Byass|
|Arrumbadores making up blends at Sandeman 1920s|
In addition to a number of different solera wines of varying types, ages and quality, the blender's palette consisted of many types of wine which were produced specifically for blending, and there follows a list of the main ones:
Vino de Color: Used to darken a blend, it is made by simmering must over a fire for a day or more to obtain a very dark, very sweet syrup. Once cool, more must is added and fermentation takes place. The wine is then aged and is very dark and aromatic with toffee aromas.
Mistela: This is basically juice from super ripe sunned grapes to which alcohol has been added so it retains all the sugars and is intensely sweet. Normal PX and Moscatel lose some during fermentation.
Dulce Pasa: A pale sweet wine made from late picked sunned Palomino grapes where the must is added to butts containing alcohol. As little or no fermentation or ageing takes place it is quite fruity. It has replaced Dulce Apagado.
Dulce Apagado: Similar to Dulce Pasa but made from a variety of grapes, and as it usually came from outside the Jerez area it is no longer allowed.
Dulce de Almíbar: Once used for sweetening pale wines, it is made from a mix of glucose and fructose (both found in grapes) and Fino. The mix was then briefly aged. It was banned by the EU.
Pajarete: Named after the old Moorish tower of that name, this was an intensely sweet wine made, usually from PX, and not unlike a Brown Sherry where intensity of sweetness and colour was the object. It was this that attracted distillers who wished to "improve" their product.
Rectified Concentrated Must (RCM) This is a more modern, ingredient, and is simply grape juice which has been concentrated by other means than heating, which darkens the wine and intensifies the flavour. Colour can, of course, be removed by activated charcoal filtration, but concentration can also be achieved by vacuum distillation, which involves just a little heating, or reverse osmosis which doesn't. The resultant sweet viscous liquid is blended with Fino to produce Pale Cream. It is a bit of a juggling act as obviously the RCM will dilute the Fino so it needs a bit more alcohol. The result can be a little crude, and a better alternative is to blend in young Moscatel.
Nowadays blending is much simpler and less common, due largely to the steep decline of this kind of wine and the growth of the real thing. So the moral of the story is that this wonderful wine is best in its natural state, sold for what it is rather than what people think it is.