Whether you are a connoisseur or a small amateur, wine tasting is a complex exercise, which allows you to increase your knowledge of wine. And if blind tasting is the most well-known method of wine analysis, have you ever heard of vertical tasting ? Let’s explore this concept.
Vertical tasting: definition
Vertical tasting is a method of wine evaluation reserved for wine professionals, or amateurs with advanced knowledge. And if we imagine that it is enough to taste different vintages while standing, the concept of verticality is much more complex than that.
In reality, vertical wine tasting consists of drinking the same wine, from the same vintage, but from varied vintages. It then differs from horizontal tasting, where the common point between all the wines is the vintage.
Vertical tastings are therefore real journeys through time, where the taster sets out to meet old and recent vintages of the same wine .
As a general rule, the tasting is then done with vintages ranging from the oldest to the youngest, and preferably with around ten bottles (or, in any case, more than 5).
The stages of vertical tasting then remain the same as for a classic tasting: visual analysis, olfactory analysis and taste analysis.
The interests and objectives of vertical tasting
If a wine tasting can have a fun side, it is also and above all a way to increase your knowledge and discover new vintages and new producers.
Understand the intentions and know-how of the winemaker
Tasting a vintage over several years also means becoming aware of the different modifications that the winemaker has made to his wine. Whether in terms of winemaking, or in terms of treatment of the vines, winegrowers adapt each year to produce the best wines.
Thus, wine professionals take the weather of the year into account to adapt their work:
- In hot, sunny weather, he handles the product as little as possible, and favors aging in stainless steel vats to preserve freshness;
- In cold and rainy weather, he adds sugar to the must (to increase the alcohol content of the wine) and favors aging in oak barrels, to improve the complexity and structure of the wine.
Tasting several vintages allows you to discover all the know-how of the winemaker.
Understanding the importance of a wine's vintage
The whole point of vertical tasting is to understand the impact of the vintage on the making of a wine. By taking the same vintage, but of different ages, we realize that each bottle is unique, and that no two are alike, even though the grape varieties are the same, the terroir too, as well as the winemaker's winemaking techniques .
It is essentially the weather of the vintage which influences the characteristics of the wine . A vintage marked by heat produces sweet wines, while a vintage marked by rain produces lighter wines.
Understanding the evolution of a vintage
If vertical tasting allows us to understand the importance of the vintage on the wine , it also encourages us to understand the evolution of the same vintage.
It is then possible to imagine, in a purely theoretical way, the aging potential of a wine . This obviously remains theory, because it will never be possible to simultaneously analyze the same wine, from the same vintage, of several different ages.
The limits of vertical tasting
Whatever the type of wine tasting , the taste experience always encounters limits.
Recognize the good years…but also the bad
If vertical wine tasting allows you to highlight all the advantages of the vintage on a wine, it also highlights the “bad years”, at the risk of penalizing the winemaker and the estate.
The goal here is not to denigrate the skills of a professional, but rather to evaluate the aging potential of a wine , and its concentration.
On the other hand, doing a comparative tasting which highlights a qualitative difference in the bottles also allows us to better understand the price differences that we encounter at the wine merchant, at the estate, or in stores. Indeed, several criteria directly influence the price of wine:
- The amount of work required;
- The quality of the wine;
- The quantity of bottles of wine.
Logically, a vintage which required many hours of work, or which presents exceptional quality, will see its price rise. Conversely, a wine with low aging potential will be less expensive.
It's all a question of taste
Vintage tasting is an interesting way to analyze wine from the same vineyard. On the other hand, it must be recognized that appreciation is strongly linked to individual tastes.
The evaluation of wines will therefore inevitably be influenced by different attractions of the taster:
- Red wines, white wines or rosé wines;
- Light wines or wines with a more evolved tannic structure;
- Fruity wines, dry wines, sweet wines, sparkling wines;
- Appellation wines;
- Choice of wine grape variety…
Depending on preferences, the analysis will not be the same from one taster to another, and this type of tasting remains relatively subjective.
Do you want to have a great vintage tasting experience ? Try the adventure of vertical tasting , to understand the impact of the vintage on the wine, and the importance of the weather on the vines for the producers of our terroirs.