When tasting multiple vintages of the same wine, is there a preferred order?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

When tasting multiple vintages of the same wine, is there a preferred order? For example, youngest to oldest?

—Robert, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Dear Robert,

When setting up tastings, there are a few strategies to employ in a flight of wine. It makes sense to go from lighter-bodied to fuller-bodied wines, from drier to sweeter, and from less tannic to more tannic. A light-bodied wine tasted after a full-bodied wine may appear thin in comparison, drier wines appear tart, and less tannic might seem weak.

When it comes to verticals (different vintages of the same wine) I’ve had flights set up in either direction. When they go from oldest to youngest, the older wines are often less tannic and lighter-bodied than younger wines, so there’s a natural progression of body and tannins. Sometimes that’s really helpful, because tannins can cling to your mouth and make it tough to appreciate more elegant, lighter wines.

But most of the time I see verticals go from younger to older, with the thinking that the older wines will be more complex and nuanced than their younger counterparts. It also follows the progression of a wine’s evolution. That direction also follows a wine’s evolution as it gains bottle age, which can be fascinating.

A third option is to group the wines stylistically, for instance, to taste the wines from hot vintages together. Regardless, a vertical is a great chance to look for a common thread in a wine.

—Dr. Vinny

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