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What are vertical and horizontal wine tastings?

There are many types of wine tasting however, two of the most interesting are Vertical and Horizontal Wine Tastings.  Let me be clear, when I use these terms it is not to suggest that at the start of the tasting we are in vertical position and by the end we are all horizontal.

A vertical wine tasting is where you taste wines from different vintages from the same producer.  The key variables that remain constant are the winery, the vineyards, the blends.  It is fascinating to taste how a wine from the same place made from the same grapes can vary and evolve over time.

I recently took part in a vertical tasting in the company of a distinguished group of chefs, restauranteurs, winemakers and wine lovers in Valencia.  The wines were from Clos Rougeard, Saumur in France. While most people have never head of this winery it is a cult estate whose wines are very scarce and difficult to get hold off. Every three-star Michelin restaurant in France will fight to get a small allocation.  We tasted from the 2005 vintage through to the 2011 vintage.  Each one was different, Saumur is a cool climate area and Cabernet Franc is a tricky grape variety. It was notable to the vintage variation as a result of the weather in a particular year.

Another vertical tasting I attended not so long ago was of cavas from Gramona, one of if not the top producers of quality Cava.  It was fascinating to taste older vintages of Cava where the wine has developed showing more oxidative aromas and flavours and softer mousse which is in stark contrast to a young Cava with its biscuity, yeasty flavours and lively bubbles.  Another thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating tasting.

A horizontal tasting is when you taste wines from the same year, same region and made from the same grape variety but from different producers.  The differences will be due to winemaking styles and the characteristics from particular vineyards.

A horizontal tasting does not mean tasting a Sauvignon Blanc from the 2016 vintage in Rueda, for example, and compare it to a wine made from the same grape variety in France or New Zealand. This is fun to do but is another form of comparative tasting.

Horizontal tastings play an important role in evaluating the quality and styles from a particular vintage from some of the most prestigious regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy or Rioja.   Tasting horizontally means you can evaluate the overall quality of the vintage and then compare the styles from individual wineries.

Whether it be a vertical or horizontal tasting, the objective evaluate and appreciate the wines alongside other vintages or producers.  These tastings are not just useful for professionals but also for keen enthusiasts as it is a great way to learn and develop your palate.

Why not get together with a group of wine lover friends and organise your own vertical and horizontal tastings and let me know how you get on.  Better still, invite me to come along and taste with the group.

 

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I am a Northern Irishman based in Valencia. My career in wine began more than three decades ago, in London. I am the founder of TheWinePlace.es, an online store, where wine enthusiasts can enjoy a selection of international wines and Verde Marte, a company dedicated to exporting Spanish wines. Also, Thewineplace.courses, an "approved program provider" of the courses of the prestigious WSET. I share my passion for wines through my media work writing weekly columns for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo and 5 Barricas, an online wine magazine.

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