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For something different, try a vertical wine tasting

A vertical tasting is where you compare the same wine, but from different years.

A horizontal tasting consists of wines from the same year, the same area, grape variety and price range. Please do not confuse with the position of the taster.

It is not easy to find vertical candidates unless you have your own cellar, but I would like to suggest a few “mini-verticals” where you can compare an older and newer version of the same wine.

I will lead off with Chateau Camensac, in the area of Bordeaux known as Haut (higher) Medoc and this property was among the fortunate 61 that were classified as the best in 1855 – out of a few thousand. I am suggesting that you try the 2012, that is considered a good year that will mature relatively early. Alongside, if you pour the 2016, this is a very fine vintage that is quite tannic currently and has a long life ahead of it.

Critic James Suckling commenting on the 2012 Chateau Camensac says: “Well-expressed spicy cassis fruit, quite polished and elegant with good tannins for the future. Drinking window 2016 to 2024.” I would advise that you look for cassis, black currant, cedar, graphite, black cherry and fig. The Wine Enthusiast rated it 90 points. $62.45 (Stock #9568)

The 2016 Chateau Camensac is described in this way by The Wine Cellar Insider: “Chateau Camensac needs some time before it can be enjoyed. Young vintages can be decanted for an average of one to two hours, give or take. This allows the wine to soften and open its perfume. Older vintages might need very little decanting, just enough to remove the sediment. Chateau Camensac is usually better with at least six to nine years of bottle age. Of course, that can vary slightly depending on the vintage character. It offers its best drinking and should reach peak maturity between 7 to 17 years of age after the vintage.” $64.45 (Stock #9567)

Now we move to Napa Valley for a spectacular vertical of cabernet sauvignon and lead off with 1995 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Here is some of what Robert Parker wrote about this wine and vintage: “Ninety-six points. Made from Bancroft Ranch (34 per cent), Tre Colline (36 per cent), Chabot (19 per cent) and the rest from the St Helena Home Vineyard, the 1995 is not as complex as the 1994, but it is loaded with fruit. Still an adolescent in its development, it possesses a dense purple colour along with a big, sweet bouquet of blackberries and cassis, a youthful mouthfeel, good acidity, full body, abundant fruit and glycerin and a long, heady finish. This vintage was somewhat forgotten because of all the hype surrounding 1994, but it has turned out to be a great one for bordeaux varietals in Napa. This stunning private reserve should continue to drink well for another 15 or more years. Tasted in May of 2011.” $211.95 (Stock #6389)

Now you will really experience the changes that a great cabernet sauvignon goes through as you compare our 2016 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. A classic and collectable year, it is ideal to put in the cellar for many years. In February of 2019 James Suckling rated it 99/100 and wrote: “Breathtaking, exceptional integration of super ripe blackberries and the very finest oak. The tannins build up beautifully, forming wave upon wave as the wine flows across the palate. Then the wave breaks on your palate and shoots way out at the finish, so that you wonder where it will end and normal life begin again. Needs time to soften, but this is so, so good.” $198 (Stock #6311)

These two wines will give you such an understanding of the life cycle of great wines, how the fruit become less forward and secondary characteristics evolve that I have difficulty putting into words. If you have concerns about buying a 26-year-old wine, let me relate an occasion in our home last month.

Our last-born arrived home with his young lady and, to celebrate being apart for far too long, we opened a 1988 Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon – the year of his birth! To say that it was yummy is a significant understatement. We have vintages, in our home, from this Napa vineyard going back to 1974. We really should drink them up, although I recently checked and saw that this oldest still hung in now at 96/100.

Maybe you are considering starting a “cellar” and it is quite amazing how it can build over many years if you just buy a few good bottles now and then.

As Christmas is around the corner, here is one more mini-vertical that you could have with up to twelve tasting friends (who maybe could contribute to the cost) and it involves a wine that I respect as much as any from anywhere in the world.

Our 2012 Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon come from a vineyard smack in the middle of the Stags Leap AVA, one of our world’s iconic areas for cabernet sauvignon. Robert Parker gives this the perfect 100/100 and comments: “Certainly possesses 25 to possibly 50 years of ageing potential. The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select is a perfect wine. It elicits more than a few 'wows' when you smell the incredible notes of charcoal, graphite and subtle toast, buttressed and dominated by blackcurrant, blackberry and blueberry fruit. The purity of these fruits, the multidimensional mouthfeel, the seamless integration of acid, alcohol, tannin and wood are all flawless. The 2012 signature adds an extravagant opulence and density that is just mind-boggling, and the wine is a total hedonistic and intellectual turn-on already.” $323.65 (Stock # 6891)

The 2016 Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon breaks about anything I have ever seen as it rates 100 from Robert Parker who describes it as “stunning opulence”; Jeb Dunnuck calls it “pure perfection” and Vinous, “sumptuous and exotic”. $350 (Stock #6807)

I must open the bottle of 1996 that John and Barbera Shafer bought to our home, but then I will only have memories rather than anticipation, which creates a tough decision.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

Beringer Vineyards, the oldest continuously operating winery in Napa Valley, California (Photograph supplied)

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Published November 26, 2021 at 7:58 am (Updated November 26, 2021 at 7:30 am)

For something different, try a vertical wine tasting

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