HOW TO TASTE WINE: What Are Themed Wine Tastings?

About 18 months ago we started the Pacific Pointe Wine Tasting Club.  After a bit of a slow start, the club is now going quite well.  The meetings are packed, and everyone has a good time while learning something about wine.  Being in a wine tasting club is also a great way to try and identify wines that won’t break the bank.

Up to this point, we’ve used a pretty classical approach to wine tastings.  Our tastings have all been blind, varietal themed tastings, that include wine scoring, meaning we taste the wines, and score the wines without knowing their identity, and the wines are all the same grape varietal (e.g., Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, or Merlot).  There has been some discussion about mixing it up a little bit and trying different wine tasting themes including horizontalvertical, and regional wine tasting themes.  Here’s what that means:

Vertical Tastings

A vertical tasting is done by tasting one grape varietal, from one producer, from several vintages.  For example tasting Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 vintages.   Why do it?  By eliminating the producer variable, it’s a great way to look for both a common thread among the wines from different vintages, and to discern differences from vintage to vintage. It’s also a great way to see how a wine ages (i.e. how the five components of a wine, fruit, acid, sugar, alcohol, and tannins change over time).   Vertical tasting may be tasted the oldest to the youngest, or vice-versa.

Horizontal Tastings

A horizontal tasting is done by tasting one grape varietal, from one vintage, from multiple producers.  For example, 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from Ridge Vineyard, Caymus, Joseph Phelps, and Silver Oak.  By eliminating the vintage variable, it’s a great way to experience the influence of the winemaker.  Of course, there could be regional differences (Are Cabs from the Rutherford A.V.A. different, from Cabs from the Stag’s Leap District A.V.A?), so you might consider further narrowing down the tasting to a grape varietal from a particular region.  On the other hand, “vive la différence”!  It might be interesting and fun to discern the differences.

Regional Tastings