Vertical wine tastings: Can you tell them apart?
As the saying goes, “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold”. Sure we all know it, but we don’t all necessarily follow it. But does this theme apply when it comes to wine?
With wine, like old buddies, some of the best years are fondly remembered and savored as they are brought up from storage. Sure, they fade and change gradually with time, but their improvement can be remarkable.
One of the best ways to appreciate the golden highlights of vintages gone by is to gather your fellow wine tasters for a “vertical”. Of course, this involves finding the same brand produced in different years; often times that’s a challenge. But the payoff is a vertical tasting experience that is quite memorable, while also proving that the art of discriminately tasting wine is really not such a big deal.
Of course, without a well-stocked wine rack, verticals can be a little tricky. But in the 2nd half of the year, a lot of new vintage year bottles come in before they sell out the old ones. So it’s not too difficult to find two vintages of your favorite brand on the same shelf at the store.
One approach is to pick wines from well-established wineries with a somewhat long history of production. A brand that goes back fairly far and is known for year-over-year consistency is Luce Delle Vite.
Their “Lucente” label is a robust red that has been produced for a number of years. It is nicely priced at under $30 with the 2007-2011 vintages available through multiple distribution channels. But you may need to visit several stores to get the ones you want.
Vertical Lucentes exhibit a range of flavors that vary, but not so much. With some vintages you notice flowers in the bouquet and with others there are cherries. There is more or less fruit in the body and the tannins vary in texture. These variations make for the most interesting vertical tastings; subtle changes that you have to work at a little, but still quite revealing.
Tempe’s Total Wine outlet has been stocking the 2007 Lucente and may have other years by now. Just ask a salesperson and maybe he or she can come up with alternative ideas for a vertical.
Another good place to look is Fry’s. They surely have the record for stocking multiple vintages, ‘cause nobody really checks, especially when it comes to Kenwood’s Jack London Zinfandel, another great vertical!