A vertical wine tasting is a classic wine tasting experience. It can help you learn about a particular wine producer, their wines and their style, in depth. A vertical wine tasting is when you sample the same wine, from the same vineyard, from several different years. The opposite is, or course, a horizontal tasting; where you sample the same wine, from the same year, from multiple vineyards.
Yeah, but what’s the point of setting up a vertical tasting?
A vertical is a fun way to learn a lot about a producer and particular wine, and also to learn about different vintages. Each vintage has distinct characteristics that set it apart from others. So tasting the same wine over several vintages can be educational and enlightening in regards to the subtle, or not so subtle, difference from one vintage to the next. It also gives you a chance to compare older vintages of a wine to younger ones, teaching you about how that wine typically ages and evolves with time. Finally, because the wines are all made from the same vineyard and by the same techniques, you get to learn a lot about that particular vineyard and producer style. You get to become intimately aware what parts of the wine are consistent from vintage to vintage.
So how are the wines served in a vertical tasting?
Generally wines are served in chronological order. However, there is some disagreement about whether wines should be served oldest to youngest or youngest to oldest. Traditionally, wines in a tasting are served youngest to oldest, the theory being that younger wines are more simple and older wines are more complex so your palate builds up through the tasting. However, very young wines can be quite big and powerful and old wines can be subtle and mellow. So the other way around you may burn out your palate early on young burly wines and then cannot appreciate the subtleties of the older wines that come later. How you decide to order your wines in your vertical wine tasting themes is up to you but you should take the particular wines into consideration. While the order may not matter much if all the wines are relatively new, an ancient bottle may be distinctly different from the others and deserve special consideration and planning.
That sounds fun, where can I experience a vertical tasting?
Well, this weekend there is a vertical wine tasting being offered at Hawk Haven. They will be pouring their 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 Merlot. See if you can taste the differences between the vintages, and note the difference between the young 2010 and the fully mature 2007. The tasting also comes with a gourmet cheese plate and you get to keep the commemorative glass. It’s just $15 and is going on all weekend long, no need to call for reservations. Just stop by the tasting room between 12:00 and 5:00.
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