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Aug 8, 2011 05:50 PM

Vertical—in both directions?

This may be a "duh" question. But does anyone ever do the same vertical, but from newest to oldest and then again from newest to oldest in a reasonably quick time frame?

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  1. You mean, like having a vertical tasting on Friday night, then opening another set of bottles the following Friday night? Doesn't that demand access to a number of very old bottles, and/or a lot of $$$ so you can do everything twice?

    The only time I've done that is when I was working for a winery and hosted vertical tastings at events like the Boston Wine Expo or the Monterey Wine Festival (e.g.: a vertical tasting of Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon).


    OTOH . . .

    >>>>> does anyone ever do the same vertical, but from newest to oldest and then again from newest to oldest in a reasonably quick time frame? <<<<<

    What does "in both directions" mean? As you described, both are "newest to oldest" . . . .

    9 Replies
    1. re: zin1953

      Oops, I meant "from oldest to newest and newest to oldest."

      Let's say you did it in the same evening so you don't have to open two of each, with downtime in between for your palate to adjust. Or would the exposure to air be too much of an added variable?

      1. re: tatamagouche

        >>>>> would the exposure to air be too much of an added variable? <<<<<
        Depends upon the age of the older/oldest wines . . .

        EVERY flight of wines I taste, I taste twice -- left to right, and again right to left. There is a natural, innate tendency for humans to taste something first, and the compare everything else to that first one . . . rather than each wine on its own. By tasting through the wines twice, you can help to counter some of that "built-in" bias.

        One exception is vertical tastings -- a) generally I'm not "working," but rather "enjoying"; and b) depending upon the range of vintages, and the age of the oldest wine, it may fall apart by the time you return to it.

        Then, of course, there is the whole debate over order:

        Do you taste young-to-old, in order to build up to (presumably) the most developed, perfect wine; or do you taste old-to-young, in order to taste the older wines *before* the tannins and more intense characteristics of the younger wines destroy your taste buds?

        1. re: zin1953

          Right—a response to that debate is exactly why I was wondering what would happen if you did it in both directions at the same time.

          What's your own response to it?

          1. re: tatamagouche

            We often do "blind" verticals, where the wines are not identified by vintage, and then we try to place them in order, and they are randomly placed before folks so they are not tasted in any particular order. Everyone just has wines 1 thru 6 and has no idea which vintage corresponds to which number. Lots of fun.

            However, when doing a tasting where we know the vintages, we normally taste oldest to youngest for the reasons zin identified, and to give the younger ones some more time to air..

            1. re: dinwiddie

              I suspect that can get difficult with wines that are close in age...

              1. re: tatamagouche

                It can, but you would be amazed sometimes how different the same wine can taste from year to year.

            2. re: tatamagouche

              >>> What's your own response to it? <<<

              Well, keep in mind that I've retired from the wine trade, and my major connection with wine is that of enjoyment, rather than work. By that, I mean that the wines I taste today are overwhelmingly for enjoyment, rather than work; and the days when my friends and I would regularly get together for various tastings are long gone . . . bear with me.

              When you are in the wine trade, you often belong to a number of different tasting groups -- typically comprised of *other* people in the wine trade. Certainly this is (or at least can be) very enjoyable, but the primary focus is often education. We are trying to learn more about wine. At one point, I had probably 30+ CASES of wine devoted solely to "experiments" -- I wanted to see how *this* wine aged, or how *that* bottle (with the screwcap) developed compared to the bottle with the traditional cork closure, and so on and so on . . . "Can a California late harvest Sauvignon Blanc age and develop in the bottle like a Sauternes? Let's put a couple of bottles in the cellar and find out!"

              I am not a wine "collector." I have never understood collecting verticals -- the temptation is NEVER to drink them, because it would ruin your vertical! ;^) Yet I have tasted through countless verticals, either putting one together from the winery's "library" where I was employed, or from among my friends -- one of us has the 1970 vintage, someone else has the 1975 and 1976, and so on . . . . we manager to put one together!

              But, again, we looked at these as primarily educational -- and would marvel at how the current vintage was so reminiscent of the 8-year old wine when IT was the current vintage, but that it doesn't remind us at all of the 10-year old wine when that was new. All of these verticals led us to be able to "predict" aging potentials in some wines . . . "This new 2025 vintage Chateau Cache Phloe Cabernet reminds me of how the 2012 vintage was at the same age -- and we all know how beautifully the 2012 vintage aged . . . ergo, the 2025 should follow a similar pattern (same grape sources, same winemaker, etc.)."


              Again, I always *try* to taste -- regardless of what the wines are in front of me -- from left to right AND from right to left . . . in BOTH directions.

              IF . . .

              IF we are doing a vertical tasting, period -- that is, we are at a "wine tasting" -- then I prefer to taste older before younger, so that I can taste the age and developed qualities of the oldest wines without being overwhelmed by the high alcohols and tannins found in the younger wines.

              IF we are having dinner, and we're serving several vintages of the same wine over the course of the evening -- WITH dinner! -- then I prefer to build up to the oldest vintage. The wines are served one or two at a time, and the oldest vintages are the climax of the evening . . . .

              One exception: with a vertical tasting of Vintage Porto, we would often have the oldest wine first, and typically alone . . . the second bottle, we would have with Stilton . . . and it was only with the youngest vintage that we would break out the cigars. (Think 1912, 1935, and 1970 Taylor's.)


                1. re: tatamagouche

                  Don't think for one minute that I do not appreciate how fortunate I was . . .

                  There is no way that someone in the wine trade today -- someone who is in their 20s, or even 30s -- will ever get to taste, let alone buy, the many vintages of Pétrus, or Lafite; Romanée-Conti or Musigny; Le Montrachet or Corton-Charlemagne; d'Yquem or Vintage Porto (to name but a few) that it has been my AMAZING good fortune to have had access to.

                  It's one thing when the newest vintage of Pétrus (1971) costs $24.95 a bottle on the shelf (and even better with my 20% employee discount). It's quite another when it's $2,999 on pre-arrival! OUCH! Who can ever afford to buy it, let alone drink it???

                  I don't want to say I feel *sorry* for people in the trade today. Let's just say that I do not envy them . . . nor would I want to be in the wine trade today.