Among the oenological experiences offered to wine lovers, almost everyone has already heard of blind tasting. But have you ever participated in a horizontal tasting ? This way of approaching the analysis of a wine is quite particular, and is aimed at both beginners and experienced amateurs. Let’s find out what horizontal tasting is all about.
The concept of horizontal tasting
Make no mistake, horizontal wine tasting is not about lying comfortably on your bed or sofa, enjoying a delicious glass of wine. Although this experience is tempting and always very pleasant, horizontal tasting rather refers to a technique of observation and analysis of different wines .
If vertical tasting consists of tasting the same wine from different vintages, and blind tasting consists of tasting several vintages without knowing their origins, vintages or grape varieties, horizontal tasting offers a new way of approaching the oenological analysis .
It is then a question of tasting several different wines, all having the vintage in common. It is then a less complex wine experience than the other two tasting techniques, and is therefore aimed at a larger number of people.
The goal is then to take a tour of the appellation, to better understand the AOCs and better understand the characteristics of a terroir , a grape variety, or even a winemaking technique. Horizontal tasting is thus an interesting experience to progress in understanding the different wines.
Naming tour: what are we talking about?
The advantage of horizontal tasting is to be able to discover what differentiates different wines from the same AOC . In fact, all wines with a controlled designation of origin meet strict specifications, and therefore have common specificities. It is thus easier to determine what constitutes the quality of a wine, by comparing it to other wines of the same appellation. This may concern the terroir, the style of the winemaker, or even the grape varieties used.
Each wine estate has its own style of wine
A wine tells of a terroir and a culture, but it also tells of a passion, that of the winegrower for his vines. Like an artist, he then chooses to carry out different actions on the vineyard or in the cellars, and to opt for different winemaking techniques , to obtain a unique result.
It is therefore easy to understand that wines from the same appellation or the same vintage can have very different characteristics. The work of the winemaker then has an impact on many factors, and rosé wine, white wine and red wine will not be the same if they are aged in oak barrels, or if the vines are cultivated in biodynamic agriculture , For example.
Many professionals follow the exercise of horizontal tasting within the same vineyard and around the same vintage, in order to determine the quality of each plot of vines or each action in the cellar. This is an interesting solution for pinpointing areas for improvement, for example.
Each soil has its own type of wine
An appellation extends over several hectares of vines, and concerns numerous vineyards. However, even within this surface area, the soil types are sometimes very different. Thus, depending on the geographical area where the vines are grown , wines from the same appellation can present very specific characteristics.
Horizontal tasting allows, in this case, to reveal all the variations of aromas that a type of soil can provide.
As an example, let’s take the AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This appellation brings together 4 types of soil, on which 13 grape varieties are authorized. If the AOC remains the same for all the wines produced in this area, we must recognize that each bottle is unique, and the aromatic palette of the appellation is very vast.
Addressing the notion of terroir with horizontal tasting
Once we understand the importance that the type of soil and the style of the winemaker have in the structure and taste of a wine, we more easily understand the notion of terroir . It is for this reason that within the same AOC, wine estates and wine merchants emphasize the terroir. Because it is he who reflects the originality of the wine, and which highlights the know-how of the winemaker.
Certain French wine regions are particularly conducive to horizontal tasting, as the diversity of terroirs is great. This is the case, for example, of Burgundy, whose vineyards include hundreds of appellations. It is not uncommon, moreover, for a single estate to have multiple plots, each located on very different terroirs.
The exercise is all the more interesting in Burgundy, as the vintages are essentially made from single varietals. It is then easy to identify the specificities of each terroir , and their way of influencing the effects on the wine.
Discover a grape variety with horizontal tasting
Many grape varieties have the capacity to flourish in different regions of France, Europe, and even the world. It is then interesting to use horizontal tasting to discover the specificities of a grape variety according to the terroir. Indeed, the same grape variety can develop very varied characteristics depending on the type of soil or climate.
We can observe this with grape varieties very present in France, such as pinot noir, chardonnay, malbec, or even syrah.
It can then be very interesting to compare wines from the same grape variety and the same vintage, but from different countries or wine-growing regions. We often discover that a grape variety does not produce the same wines if it is grown in New Zealand, Burgundy or California.
The evaluation criteria for a horizontal tasting
On the technical aspect, horizontal tasting does not differ from a traditional tasting. Thus, the taster carries out a visual examination of the wine, then an olfactory examination , before finishing with a taste examination .
All the criteria of a classic tasting are then addressed: color, nose, mouth, aromas…
Would you like to learn wine tasting, or deepen your knowledge of oenology? Horizontal tasting is probably the easiest exercise to approach, and allows you to discover all the specificities of an appellation.