One of the more entertaining and exciting aspects to wine collecting can be assembling vertical collections of your favourite wines. Tasting multiple vintages of one wine can reveal the incredible changes that take place in different seasons; and if the winery switches vineyards it can show you the powerful effect of terroir on a wine. Bringing out a vertical collection of a favourite wine on a special occasion can be a real treat, and provide for a fun and enlightening evening for your wine-interested friends. Of course, collecting verticals can also be immensely frustrating, as some wines may radically differ in production quantity from year to year, or due to prominent awards may prove immensely difficult to acquire in some years, thus potentially leaving a frustrating hole in your collection. Lastly there is also the difficult decision of when to finally drink that compilation you so carefully and lovingly assembled over years – it may be hard to bring yourself to consume them all in one sitting, knowing how much work and/or money you put into it!
If you decide to start collecting certain wines for the purposes of a vertical tasting one day in the future, you need to first decide on what price point with which you are comfortable. At first I imagined the glory of a vertical collection of some of BC’s icon wines such as Mission Hill’s Legacy Series Compendium or Quatrain, which run in the $40-$50 range. In fact, I very fortunately have all the vintages of both of those sought-after wines, but after reflection realized I would not be able to bring myself to consume multiple vintages of said wines (seeing $120-$150 poured at once would be tough for me). After discussion with my voice of reason I realized with her help that I should focus on the less expensive quality wines available, of which there are quite a few in BC; wines under $25 thus became one of my vertical goals.
Another consideration for your vertical collection is the length of time you want to collect before opening those bottles. I have settled on collections encompassing three vintages: enough to appreciate the annual changes that can take place, but not so many that any one vintage gets lost during the tasting. It should be easy enough for you and a few guests to compare and contrast three years of wine without falling over when you get up. Lastly, three years is relatively easy to store in an out-of-way location – many wine stores sell handy three-bottle boxes in both cardboard and wood.
Beyond your own personal tastes of course, paying careful attention to national or regional awards is a great place to start when planning a vertical. It can be fun to start your collection with a wine that captured a Lt. Governor’s Award, or Wine of the Year in the Canadian Wine Awards or All Canadian Wine Championships. If you have limited space you could start only one vertical per year, based on the wine that wins Red Wine of the Year at the CWAs for example (in 2008 it was Sandhill’s Small Lots Syrah, and last year Jackson-Triggs’ Sunrock Shiraz snagged the prize). Of course, if that’s your plan you better move fast, because a big award has a very effective way of moving bottles out the door!
Sometimes you don’t even choose which wines to collect in a vertical, they seem to choose you when you realize you have two vintages already, with a third on the way – why not hang on to those two until you have the third, and you’ve got yourself a vertical! Below are a few of the wines I’m collecting with the goal of a future vertical-tasting in mind; most of them are reds due to their more flexible storage periods, but whites such as Chardonnay and Riesling can also lend themselves well to mid-term cellaring. Many of BC’s exceptional Chardonnays – made with cellar time in mind – top $30 however, and while I still collect them annually I don’t plan on consuming them in a vertical tasting that would see me go through $100 at once.
Ex Nihilo Riesling ($22): The 2007 vintage won gold at the Riesling du Monde in 2009, and I found a 2006 at Firefly. I have high hopes for acquiring a 2008 sometime soon, as that vintage also won gold at the Riesling du Monde this Spring.
Joie Riesling ($23): This well-known Riesling won a Lt. Governor’s Award for the 2008 release, and after acquiring a couple bottles of the very good 2009 while still retaining a 2008 in my collection, I’ve decided to wait for next Spring’s 2010 release and see what I get! Judging by the Okanagan weather this fall I’m guessing something fairly dry and acidic, but Joie should be able to pull off a lovely crisp, food-friendly Riesling that will round out this vertical.
Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Merlot ($25): My bottle of 2005 Oldfield Merlot is the last one with the “old” labelling, providing for an amusing contrast with the dramatic new labels that started in the 2006 release. Winemaker Sandra Oldfield puts this well-priced Merlot at the centre of Tinhorn’s array of fine wines. As soon as I see a 2007 Oldfield Merlot I’ll grab at least one bottle to complete this collection.
Sumac Ridge Black Sage Vineyard Cabernet Franc ($20): The 2006 Black Sage Cabernet Franc won a valuable gold medal at the Canadian Wine Awards, so it seemed like a good place to start the vertical. The 2007 can be seen on shelves how, although you wouldn’t know it from Sumac Ridge – their website contains nary a mention of the new vintage, which has been out for a few months now. Don’t let their e-ignorance dissuade you though, if Sumac can maintain that gold-standard this should be a very nice vertical once I have the 2008.
Inniskillin Dark Horse Vineyard Meritage ($25): This well-priced 2006 Meritage won a bronze medal at the 2009 Canadian Wine Awards, and valuable praise from critics, and when I saw the 2007 come out recently I picked up a bottle and thought it would be fun to collect three years’ worth.
Osoyoos LaRose Petales D’Osoyoos ($25): Petales is Osoyoos LaRose’s “Second Label”, a less-expensive baby brother to Le Grand Vin, their premiere Bordeaux blend. While the best grapes are retained for Le Grand Vin, Petales hardly seems to go wanting. It receives very positive reviews, and even benefits from some cellar time before consumption. I’ve got the 2006 and 2007 vintages in my collection; the 2008 will book-end a charming vertical I can hold for some time until an extra-special occasion calls for it.