Wine Geek Speak: Vertical

Hello Friends,

I clearly remember when I first got into wine and received an e-mail from one of the producers I had just recently visited inviting me to a “vertical” tasting. I had no idea what a vertical tasting was, but was eager to learn more about wine, so I gladly accepted the invite. When I found out what a vertical tasting was via Google, it was much different than what I initially thought. Let’s just say I figured there would be a lot of standing-up that day.

A vertical at Waterford, now Corcoran Vineyards

A vertical tasting is a type of wine tasting where the wines selected are from the same producer, but different years. The point of such a tasting is to better understand and identify similarities and differences of the same type of wine (i.e. Merlot, Viognier, and Petit Verdot) from vintage to vintage; therefore, contiguous years are preferred. An example of a vertical tasting would be having a 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007 vintage of Cabernet Franc from your favorite Virginia producer all lined up and ready to sip and chat about.

Dave Collins guides us through a vertical @ Breaux Vineyards

Here in Virginia, we have up, down, and okay wine growing seasons. Fortunately, there are more "up" and "okay" growing seasons than "down" - 2003 was the last overall bad vintage for the state. Quality is not so much of an issue for the guys doing it right, but keeping the style of a particular wine consistent from vintage to vintage is. One year, you may have a fuller bodied and ripe red wine and the next year the same wine may be lean with softer fruit and good acidity. Therefore, when trying to determine or make a guess at what style of Virginia wine you are buying, it’s always good to know the vintage and producer.

Breaux Vineyards Merlot and Beef Tenderloin (from Grandale)

One of Virginia’s top wine producers, who host several vertical tasting events througout the year, is Breaux Vineyards. Breaux is on their 13th year in business and has over 100 acres under vine and their wines are almost all made from 100% estate grown fruit. Breaux has vertical tasting events for their Nebbiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, which usually go back to 1999-2001 to the current vintage. These vertical tasting events are hosted by Jen Breaux and winegrower Dave Collins. Your job is simple and fun! Listen with an attentive ear and think while you sip, while Jen and Dave guide you through each vintage and the role the growing season played in making the wine you are swirling, sniffing, and sipping. Another bonus is Breaux typically uses nearby local farm–to-table restaurant Grandale Farm to cater their vertical events, so you can go local in the plate and glass. Many other Virginia producers host vertical tasting events, so check out the events calendar on some of your favorite producer's websites. I believe Breaux is finished vertical events for 2010, but be sure to check their website  to see what's being offered for 2011. If you collect enough of the same type of wine from the same producer, you may want to think about hosting your own vertical tasting with friends at home. That can be a lot of fun too. Either way, a vertical tasting should be enjoyable, educational, and an enlightening experience for you. Have a question about this post, friends? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at, and as always, Happy Sipping! Stay tuned friends ...More to come!

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