Most peope should be familiar with the idea behind a traditional (or horizontal) wine tasting. Essentially, a tasting is meant to give the taster a sampling of comparable wines or high-end beers--for example, California chardonnays or Russian Imperial Stouts--to help illustrate the impact of different ingredients, different soil, different techniques, and the like. Or at least that's meant to be the point; I was raised on a steady diet of car magazine comparison tests, so I usually just try to figure out which I like best.
However, I'm guessing the idea of a vertical tasting might be a little more foreign--it certainly was to me until a few months ago. Vertical tastings give the taster a sampling of different vintages of the same wine or beer, with the goal of comparing those vintages and learning how that beverage ages. The idea is to compare the 1969 Dom Perignon with the 1988 Dom; or, to get a little closer to my price range, comparing a six-month-old box of Franzia to Franzia purchased right off the supermarket shelf.
If our regular face-off features are traditional, horizontal comparisons between direct competitors, today's head-to-head is decidedly vertical in nature. Rather than pit a given Nissan Z-car against the Toyota Supra, Chevrolet Corvette, and Porsche 911 against which it competed, I'm pitting the various Z-car generations against each other and challenging you to pick your favorite. This removes brand loyalty from the equation and poses a completely different question--what do you value in a sports car? Do you prefer the classic, timeless simplicity of the older vintage, the more robust capability of the modern editions, or the character of the cars that came in between? Feel free to vote using your own criteria and explain those criteria in the comments section.
My commentary on the various Z-car vintages can be found after the poll and the jump.
[The poll widget is no longer available because Vizu.com has ceased operations.]