Vertical and horizontal are not only terms used to refer to the direction in which a picture is arranged, or the location of a point on the X or Y axis. You can also have horizontal and vertical wine tastings! Most of you probably already know this, but for those who do not; a horizontal wine tasting consists of tasting multiple wines of the same varietal and vintage from different wineries, and a vertical tasting is of multiple of the same wine type in different vintages. Both of these tastings can help you identify the small differences between the wines that are more evident when tasting them back-to-back. There is a relatively new establishment in Detroit called Vertical, where they specialize in (obviously) vertical wine tastings.
The menu at Vertical Detroit has several different verticals from which you can choose, along with an abundant amount of by-the-glass and bottle selections. Seeing as I am still on my Chianti kick from the trip to Tuscany, I obviously went with the vertical tasting of the Podere Ciona Riserva Chianti Classico. We had tastes of the 2006, 2009, and 2010 vintages. The winery recommends for this particular wine waiting at least five or six years from the vintage for initial consumption, and up to an additional ten to fifteen years of cellaring, so the 2010 vintage was the youngest we would want to drink. Doing a vertical tasting such as this was interesting, because if you had the same wine in three separate vintages weeks or months apart the subtle differences would probably not stand out, but when you drink them back to back they are much more obvious. This is why I always enjoy doing back to back tastings of similar wines (see any of the Dueling Wines posts).
We will go backwards and start with the 2010, a blend of 90% Sangiovese, 8% Merlot, and 2% Alicante Bouschet (a native French grape primarily used in blends, known for its deep color and jammy flavor). The wine is very deep red in color, probably thanks to the Alicante Bouschet, with a nose of red berries and spices. There is bit of oakiness and minerality with predominant ripe cherry flavors, velvety tannins with a long, well-balanced finish. All in all, a very nice Chianti. Now moving along to the 2009… out of all three this was my least favorite, it was not nearly as well balanced as the 2010 with the fruitiness overpowering the other flavors. The difference may be partially in that the blend for this vintage is 9% Merlot and only 1% of the Alicante Bouschet. According to the tech sheets from the winemaker they were also grown in different soils, which has a profound effect on the flavors. Grape vines grown in soils that have more drainage have to send their roots much further into the ground for water, and therefore produce wines with more minerality than those grown in soils with less drainage. The 2006 was by far the best of the three, the few years of extra age didn’t hurt at all. The blend of this one was 95% Sangiovese, 4% Merlot, 1% Alicante Bouschet, so pretty different from the other two. It was grown in the same soil, however, as the 2010 vintage (A mixture of quartz arenite (sandstone), clay schist and marl), where the 2009 was grown in mainly weathered sandstone. Where the tasting notes are fairly similar as the 2010, the oak was more well-balanced and blended more smoothly and the minerality was more present on the finish. All in all, I would say that give the 2010 another 4 years of cellar time and it would be just as good as the 2006 vintage, and if i hadn’t had the 2010 and 2006 in the same sitting with the 2009 that one would be pretty good, too. If a vertical tasting is not something you have experienced before, I highly recommend trying it out, you can probably do it at home but having the ambiance of a trendy new wine bar always helps.