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Have fun with wine tasting

The horizontal, vertical, blind and double blind

Posted: July 20, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Updated: July 20, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Russ Briley Russ Briley
Russ Briley

This column originally ran in the Ventura County Star on July 31, 2010.

If you are thinking about hosting a wine tasting, there are four basic types of tastings you can organize. They range from knowing what types of wine you are tasting and evaluating them, to tastings where you are trying to figure out what you are drinking, the vintage and where the wine is from. These four basic types of wine tasting are horizontal, vertical, blind and double blind.

In a horizontal wine tasting, you are tasting wines of the same vintage, but from different wineries. From here you can decide if you want the wines to all be the same varietal or a mix.

When I have a horizontal tasting, I like to select wines from a particular region and compare their differences. For example, you could do a tasting of Paso Robles zinfandels from 2007. The differences you will see from grapes grown on the east side and west side of Paso Robles are astonishing.

The vertical tasting is one where all the wines are from a particular winery, but are different vintages.

Here you can see the how the terroir (the growing environment) affects the vineyard and the grapes it produces year to year. You also can see how age changes wine in either a positive or negative way.

Now we come to the “fun tastings,” the first of which is called a blind tasting.

Usually in a blind tasting you are tasting wines all from the same varietal, which is revealed beforehand, but you do not know what region the wine is from.

You might taste chardonnays and have to discern if the wine is from the Old World or New World and why you think this.

In this particular example, a California chardonnay is usually completely different from a French Burgundy.
There is a second type of blind tasting called the double-blind tasting. This one is the ultimate in fun and difficulty.
In a double-blind tasting, bottles are usually wrapped in a bag and all are of different varietals and vintages. When I do one of these tastings, we try to figure out what the varietal is, the vintage (before or after a designated year) and if it is Old World or New World.

When sommeliers gets tested on wine, they usually go through a blind tasting or double-blind tasting. The surprising thing is that they usually are not trying to guess what the wine is but eliminating what the wine is not, based on many factors. What those factors are is another full article. At your next wine party, try one of these tastings and have fun with it.

© Ventura County Star

As well as writing a wine column for the Ventura County Star, Russ Briley, long time Santa Clarita Valley resident, recently completed the Wine Studies program at COC. Russ and his wife Nancy also own Nuggucciet Cellars, where they produce small lots of Pinot Noir wine. Visit Email Briley at



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