In a recent tasting of the Yiron series, Galil Mountain's flagship wine made with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, I had the chance to compare the differences in the wine from its first released vintage of 2000 to the recently bottled 2003 vintage.
When holding a wine tasting you can decide to have a general tasting, or a vertical tasting. In a general wine tasting there are no real limitations on the wines involved. You may limit the wines to those from a particular grape variety, price range or whatever other criteria that you select. A vertical tasting, such as this was, involves wines from different vintages but the same winery.
If the winery produces more than one type of wine, you would select a single wine from that winery and taste multiple vintages. When you hold a vertical tasting, you are learning about the differences between different vintages rather than the differences between wineries.
There is no rule or accepted practice about the number of wines that you need for a vertical wine tasting. Just two wines would qualify, but I find three wines tasted together make it more interesting.
The tasting process itself involves three basic steps, all of which have their own nuances: examining the wine's appearance, smelling the wine and tasting it.
Smelling the wine generally consists of swirling the wine to release its aroma and/or bouquet and then putting your nose just inside the glass and inhaling gently.
Smelling the wine can reveal much of its character, and if there's something wrong with wine, the nose will usually detect it even at this stage.
The idea of a vertical tasting is to try to identify characters that exist in the same wine year after year. It is also an excellent way to see how wines age.
The most important rule for a vertical tasting is to begin with the youngest wine and work back to the oldest. You can expect the oldest wines to be the most mature, subtle and elegant. If you start with the oldest bottles and work forward, the recent vintages will seem shallow by comparison, all flashy fruit and no depth. A clean glass for each wine is also strongly recommended.
Yiron 2003: Deep red, nearly purple in color, this wine is rich and elegant. It presents fruity flavors of plums and blackberries, with a hint of anise toward the end.
Yiron 2002: This was the winning wine. With rich aromas of black cherries, peppers and plums balanced by firm tannins, this wine has a good structure and a long finish.
Yiron 2001: A medium to full-bodied wine with soft, ripe tannins presenting dark plum and black cherries. The wine is well rounded and has a hint of tobacco on the lingering aftertaste.
Yiron 2000: Plush, opulent and soft as velvet, but lacking in acidity and tannic structure. There's quite a difference between the first-released wine in this series and the latest vintage, though the first has nicely matured.
The vertical tasting took place at the Avi-Ben wine shop in Mevaseret Zion, which is a great place to learn about different wineries and the people behind the wine. (The staff there will be eager to help you learn.)