Tasting: The Vertical Flight

After a weekend away I returned home last Monday to find The Wine Society’s latest offer of wines from Bodegas Muga amongst my post. This offer inspired me to purchase a case of wine and formed the basis of the present article. Unfortunately I checked in to the website to find the case I wanted was already sold out.  I missed out on wine but you still can still have the article.

This article forms the start of a series on wine tasting.  In this context I am not referring to the physical art of tasting wine, nor even the appraisal of a wine, but instead thinking about the planning and logistics of arranging a tasting session. Here at The Fermentation Vessel all of our writers will agree that the greatest education and enjoyment to be had in wine is a well crafted tasting.  Even as a self-confessed wine geek it is hard to remember what a specific wine, grape or region tastes like from day to day so comparing wines over months and years is a pretty tall order. What is needed is to taste the wines side by side to compare and contrast the various qualities and train both brain and palate.


15 wines bearing almost no relation to one another – a chaotic tasting.

First and foremost wine tasting is a social occasion.  When we hosted our first tastings it was just a group of friends and a pretty slapdash selection of wines (see above) – in fact it was totally chaotic.  Tasting 15 random wines is only slight improvement on tasting just a couple and I can assure you the hangover is truly dreadful. What is essential to a good wine tasting is having a coherent theme. We will be exploring a few different themes in the coming months and starting to think about how to source the necessary wines. One such theme that particularly appeals to me is that of a vertical tasting.

A vertical tasting is the same wine, from the same vineyard and same producer tasted over a number of different years. This is the tasting that will demonstrate to you that vintage matters and will start to reveal how wine might evolve over time. Realistically even 2 vintages of the same wine are enough to show the role of age and vintage, although I would normally recommend 3 vintages to make the most of the opportunity.  I never really believed vintage made much of a difference until tastings like the bottles of Chateauneuf Du Pape below. Vertical tastings are a unique opportunity as you cannot just turn up at a retailer or winery and do a tasting like this- not unless you have some serious kudos in the wine world anyway.


Paired verticals of Chateuneuf Du Pape (some bottles pending delivery)

The challenge with vertical tastings is that sourcing the same wine, from the same vineyard, and the same producer is frankly just as difficult as it sounds. This is even more difficult if you want to go 10+ years back and put everything together at a good price. Wine-searcher is a good place to start, or if you are lucky a mixed case turns up every once in a while. Unfortunately pre-selected vertical cases are usually rather expensive and sell out quickly. The next articles in this series will focus on getting together the bottles of a tasting, and how to do so for the best possible price.

Conclusions: All things considered I am more distraught at missing the 6 bottle vertical of Muga Rioja Reserva for £85 than I was before writing the article. If you want to try some vertical tasting without too much expenditure I would suggest you join The Wine Society and keep a close eye on the future offers – I have seen quite a few verticals from them in the past year.

If you want any advice on putting together a vertical tasting yourself then drop us a tweet, write on our Facebook, or ask your questions in the comments section below.


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