Yeast is a key ingredient in the fermentation process of any wine, but at Rocks + Acid wine shop in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, owner and sommelier Paula de Pano is introducing consumers to bottles that get an extra dose of character from yeast during the aging process: wines aged under flor. Most associated with the manzanilla and fino sherries of Jerez and Jura’s vin jaune wines, this production technique involves aging wine under a naturally occurring film of yeast, called flor.
“This wine style is still not very popular since production can be quite tricky,” says de Pano. For a veil of flor to develop, the conditions must be just right in terms of temperature, alcohol level, direct contact with oxygen, and no fermentable sugars. If successful, however, the flor’s yeast feeds off the alcohol and glycerol in the wine while protecting it from oxidation, typically adding fresh, savory, nutty qualities to the wine—which is why some global winemakers attempt to craft their own flor-aged wines.
“Wines that are produced under flor—aside from the usual regions like Jerez and Jura—aren’t typically made year after year,” says de Pano. “More often than not, they are experimentations in the winery when the conditions are right.” But these one-off rarities add an element of surprise to the offerings at Rocks + Acid, she says, and guests want to learn more. “When guests try a taste of the Vegas Altas ‘Bajo Velo’ that we offer by the glass, the most common reaction I get is, ‘I wasn’t expecting that! What gives it that flavor?’ After a quick rundown on the process, they eventually choose that wine.”
Selling Points for Wines Aged Under Flor
- These wines are often discovery options for consumers, which can be a draw. “The ‘I didn’t know that a wine could taste that way, let me try it!’ mindset comes into play,” says de Pano. “It essentially expands their horizons on what other wines are out there.”
- Because flor-aged wines—also referred to as biologically aged wines or wines aged sous voile (“under a veil”)—produced by winemakers outside of Jerez and Jura are typically one-off or once-in-a-while releases, this adds an element of excitement and urgency to the sell.
- Typically, each release of a flor-aged wine is unique, thanks to the individual conditions of the flor in that vintage.
4 Flor-Aged Wines to Watch
- Weingut Schmitt ‘Wild Pony,’ Rheinhessen, Germany: This is a skin-contact wine made from Muskateller, Sylvaner, and Riesling. “Funky doesn’t even begin to describe this wine,” says de Pano. “You get a lot of perfumy, floral tones, with creamy tropical fruit flesh and a dusty minerality.”
- Weingut Wenzel ‘Under Flor,’ Burgenland, Austria: In this wine, flor aging amplifies the texture of the Furmint grape, “giving off a savory profile that pairs well with proteins,” she says.
- Altos de Montanchez ‘Vegas Altas—Bajo Velo,’ Extremadura, Spain: Made from the uncommon Eva de los Santos grape, “this wine smells like Bananas Foster with salted caramel,” says de Pano.
- Luis Seabra ‘Véu de Xisto,’ Douro Valley, Portugal: A blend of Rabigato, Gouveio, and Códega, “it’s a wine reminiscent of smoked hay, citrus oil, and salted nuts,” says de Pano.
Courtney Schiessl Magrini is the editor-in-chief for SevenFifty Daily and the Beverage Media Group publications. Based in Brooklyn, she has held sommelier positions at some of New York’s top restaurants, including Marta, Dirty French, and Terroir, and her work has appeared in Wine Enthusiast, GuildSomm, Forbes.com, VinePair, EatingWell Magazine, and more. She holds the WSET Diploma in Wines. Follow her on Instagram at @takeittocourt.