The Solaris grape is to Sweden as Bacchus is to Britain; a cool climate grape that makes award winning still and sparkling white wines ranging from dry to sweet. Recently, this novel grape has developed quite a dedicated following in Northern Europe.
Eager to create a grape variety that could withstand fungal diseases such as powdery mildew as well as the extremes of a cooler climate, Solaris was developed in Germany in 1975. Despite predominantly possessing vitis vinifera DNA and being recognised in the EU as a vitis vinifera variety, Solaris still holds traces of other vitis varieties, thus it is actually a hybrid grape. Its parentage can be traced back to a crossing between the grape variety Merzling with Gm 6493, which is another grape variety developed at the Geisenheim Grape Breeding Institute in Germany.
Let’s Talk Terroir
As an early ripening, hybrid grape variety that was developed to resist disease, Solaris is well-suited to cool, damp climates. You can find Solaris grapes in the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany. It is characterised by lush green, circular disk-like leaves and medium-sized clusters filled with chartreuse coloured berries that are more loosely packed together than other vitis vinifera varieties. Solaris requires around 90 days to fully ripen vs around 100 days for other vitis varieties, thus enabling it to thrive in cooler climates.
All About the Wine
Ranging in styles from still or sparkling, dry to sweet, the Solaris grape is a versatile variety. With naturally higher must weights (amount of sugar in the grape juice prior to fermentation), Solaris wine often achieves higher alcohol levels than other cool climate vitis vinifera grapes and can be made into sweeter dessert wines, when grown in warmer conditions. Despite having higher sugar levels, Solaris is not naturally very acidic; however, when grown in cooler climates, the acidity is more pronounced which enables it to be made into great sparkling wines.
Depending upon the climate, Solaris offers a wide range of fruit aromas and flavours from green apple, citrus, stone fruit to tropical fruit notes such as pineapple and even banana! Additionally, floral notes of elderflower and camomile are also common, especially from cooler regions. Sweeter styles tend to impart more stone fruit and tropical notes along with honeycomb and nutty nuances like hazelnuts and almonds.
If you’re looking to try a bottle, I highly recommend a Swedish sparkling Solaris. Many vineyards in the country are still experimenting with this relatively new varietal such as Ästad Vingård in Halland, Sweden. They are experimenting with fermenting Solaris wine in an inert concrete egg as well as extended lees ageing in bottle and French oak barrel ageing. No one really knows what this grape is capable of, only time and a lot of experimentation will tell.
Variety: Vitis vinifera w/ Hybrid traces
Preferred Climate: Cool Climates
Key Regions: Northern Europe
Sweetness: Dry to Sweet
Acidity: medium to medium+
Aromas and Flavours:
Floral: Elderflower, Camomile
Fruit: Apple (Green to Golden), Gooseberries, Citrus, Apricot, Peach, Pineapple and Banana
Herbaceous: Fresh cut grass and herbs
Other: Hazelnuts, Almonds and Honey
Pairings: Depending on sweetness level
Dry wine pairings: chicken salad, lobster and crab
Off-Dry and Sweet wine pairings: Brie, Camembert, Stilton, Beauvale, Grevé
Drinking Window: The jury’s still out…several sparkling wines are very age-worthy! Most still wines are probably best enjoyed young.