Verticals, beyond the gym

Tastings over time: when sipping becomes an opportunity to uncover exceptional vintages, anecdotes, and a wealth of passion.

Barbara Fassio
Barbara Fassio
verticali di vino

A wine tasting can be a rich and captivating experience, usually a journey that allows you to explore various wine types. When it comes to delving deeper into the understanding of a specific grape variety or winery, you can arrange two main types of tastings: verticals and horizontals. In this article, we’ll delve into what it means to have a wine vertical, how it differs from a horizontal, how to set it up, and which wines are most suitable. Moreover, we’ll uncover some intriguing tidbits associated with this type of tasting.

bottiglie di vino


A wine vertical is a targeted tasting experience that involves sampling different vintages of the same wine, usually from the same winery. This approach allows connoisseurs to explore the evolution of a wine over the years and capture its nuances. Vertical tastings typically encompass various vintages of the same wine, often selected at significant moments, such as exceptional years or key milestones in the winery’s history.

In a vertical tasting, you can also compare wines of the same type, made from the same grape variety or originating from the same region. It’s a bit like putting the wine to the test on its journey through time. It’s about understanding how each vintage has evolved, discovering which ones shone the brightest, and noting how adept the producer was at handling the challenges each season brought to the table.

While a vertical involves the same wine but from different vintages, a horizontal includes different wine labels from the same vintage. Horizontals are ideal for exploring the differences between producers or wine regions in the same year, while verticals focus on the evolution of a single wine over time.

For once, just like the greats such as Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, we can learn a lot by participating in vertical tastings: we’ll gain insights into assessing a wine’s aging potential and evaluating its performance over time. Perhaps we won’t be awarding scores that sommeliers and investors will take into consideration, but we’ll certainly gain a wealth of knowledge.


Non vogliamo assolutamente invitarvi ad una lezione in leggins e scaldamuscoli, lasciamo alle eredi di Nadia Comăneci i record di verticali in palestra e noi ci dedichiamo ad un allenamento ben diverso. Anche una verticale di vini, per avere successo, richiede una certa preparazione.

  • Scegliere il vino: selezionate il vino specifico che volete esplorare e procuratevi diverse annate di questo vino. Assicuratevi che le bottiglie siano conservate correttamente.
  • Invitare esperti o appassionati: coinvolgete amici, esperti di vino o appassionati con interessi simili per condividere l’esperienza.
  • Decidere l’ordine di degustazione: organizzate le bottiglie in ordine cronologico, dalla più giovane alla più vecchia, per apprezzare l’evoluzione del vino nel tempo.
  • Intavolare una discussione: guidate la degustazione di ogni annata, prendetevi il tempo per analizzare il colore, l’aroma e il sapore di ciascuna bottiglia. Confrontate le varie osservazioni con gli altri partecipanti per discuterne le differenze.

We absolutely don’t want to invite you to a legging-and-warm-up session; we’ll leave the vertical gymnastics records to Nadia Comăneci’s successors. Instead, we’re diving into a very different kind of workout. Just like a fine wine vertical, success requires some preparation.

  • Choose the wine: Select the specific wine you want to explore and acquire various vintages of that wine. Ensure the bottles are properly stored.
  • Invite experts or enthusiasts: Get friends, wine experts, or fellow enthusiasts with similar interests involved to share the experience.
  • Decide on the tasting order: Arrange the bottles in chronological order, from youngest to oldest, to appreciate the wine’s evolution over time.
  • Spark a discussion: Lead the tasting of each vintage, taking your time to analyze the color, aroma, and taste of each bottle. Compare various observations with fellow participants to discuss the differences.

Wine verticals are particularly well-suited for robust red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Barolo, Bordeaux, and Sangiovese. These wines tend to improve with age, making it fascinating to explore how they develop over the years. We mentioned tasting them in chronological order from youngest to oldest, but even that’s not set in stone. What if we went the other way? When it comes to tasting aged wines, it’s important to consider that they behave differently from young wines. Think of mature wines as people who need a little time to warm up and share their story in the glass. They are delicate and communicate subtly, while young wines can be more energetic and eager to make an impression. This is particularly crucial when tasting red wines with robust tannins: starting with the young ones, the tannins might ‘blind’ our palate, causing us to miss the details of the older wines. 

You see, how we perceive tannins in a wine can depend on many factors: the grape variety, winemaking techniques, and how long it’s been aged. As wine ages and spends time in the bottle, the tannins ‘meld’ together, completely changing how we sense them. They lose that rough edge and become smoother and, dare we say, velvety. So, all these variables should be considered when deciding the order in which to taste wines in a vertical. And if you want to learn more about tannins, don’t miss this article.

But there’s also an emotional aspect to keep in mind: sometimes, the most special and anticipated bottles are saved for last, creating a bit of suspense. It’s like waiting for the grand finale of a movie, but with wine.


Wine verticals can lead to fascinating discoveries: participating in a tasting organized by a knowledgeable person allows you to learn while having fun. For instance, raise your hand if you knew that the largest wine vertical ever organized was for Sassicaia, featuring over 40 vintages? Held in 2017 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the renowned ‘Vini d’Italia’ guide by Gambero Rosso, this experience provided a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of this famous wine: all 38 vintages ever produced of the Super Tuscan from Bolgheri, spanning from 1968 to 2013. Let’s be honest; we all would have loved to be a part of that!

Some wineries and iconic wines have legendary stories woven into their vertical tastings. We can’t help but mention the verticals of Château Latour, one of the most celebrated Bordeaux wineries, which has showcased the exceptional aging ability of its wines. This winery is renowned worldwide for its wine verticals, particularly for its flagship wine, Château Latour.

Returning to Italy, an unmissable experience would be a Barbaresco Gaja vertical: this is one of the most esteemed names in the Piemonte region. Vertical tastings of Barbaresco Gaja provide a glimpse into the historical vintages and trends of this renowned wine.

If you have a passion for tastings, you can embark on a cellar-to-cellar exploration journey, from the well-known ones to the hidden gems of excellence. You’ll get to experience the different ways wine is crafted, to feel the touch that skilled winemakers add to each bottle, year after year. Discover how vintages influence the harvests and how producers can impact the wines that result from them; the blend of nature, time, and craftsmanship will truly amaze you.