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Tasting Note

Posted November 17, 2017 An intense, creamy white, bursting with peach, apple, lemon, mineral and sweet baking spice flavors. As the finish plays out, this turns to notes of chalk and stone. Offers a dry, minerally aftertaste. Balanced, but will come together even more in a year or two.

And the answer is...


Varietal

Let's take the bag off of our mystery wine! It's intense and creamy, with a mix of citrus, stone and orchard fruit flavors, and has a prominent minerality.

Starting with the obvious, the highly aromatic Moscato and Gewürztraminer varieties can be thrown out first. The rose water and lychee notes that are typical for Gewürz are not mentioned here. Moscato's grapey, floral elements are missing as well.

Albariño, a grape native to the northern Iberian Peninsula, typically exhibits aromas and flavors of apricot and peach, with mineral details. However, these wines tend to be light-bodied, refreshing and ready to drink upon release—not the case of our mystery wine, which hints at more complexity.

Our closest matches are Grüner Veltliner and Chardonnay. Premium Grüners from Austria's Niederösterreich can be expressive, with a mix of fresh apples and peaches. But they usually feature savory details, like lentils and white pepper notes, which are not present in our note.

Finally, we are left with Chardonnay, one of the most commonly planted international varieties. The grape's character is relatively neutral, and its taste tends to reflect the growing area and winemaking techniques, such as the use of new oak. When grown in moderate-climate locations, and without much make-up in the cellar, Chardonnay delivers fresh acidity, orchard and stone fruit flavors, and expresses the soil it was grown in, just like our mystery wine.

This wine is a Chardonnay.

Country

Chardonnay is grown all over the world, mainly due to its popularity and relatively low-maintenance nature in the vineyard. However, three of our options do not seem to fit: Austria, Italy and Spain. Chardonnays from these countries can be found, but vintners making white wines here tend to focus more on the indigenous varieties that are available to them. Complex, intensely mineral Chardonnay is not common.

In both California and France, Chardonnay is a very important white grape, and makes some of the most sought-out and expensive wines in the world. But there are some key differences in style with most versions from these two countries. Generally speaking, California Chardonnays are ripe and opulent, with expressive fruit that can sometimes turn tropical, as well as buttery and spice notes. On the other hand, French Chardonnays tend to show more restraint, with fresh fruit flavors, citrus notes and mineral elements.

Our mystery wine does show some signs of intense ripeness, like its creamy edge and sweet baking spice, but its intense mineral character, from "chalk" and "stone" to the lasting mineral finish, point to an Old World Chardonnay.

This Chardonnay is from France.

Age

Our wine's note suggests it will integrate better in a few years, telling us that it is still developing, so we can rule out the options older than six years.

Even though it's not at its peak yet, this white is still very expressive. However, its creamy texture hints at some oak aging, which means that the wine probably wasn't released until at least two years past its vintage date. Looking at recent vintages for Chardonnay in France, there has been a run of outstanding years going back to 2010. But if we look more closely, the 2011 and 2013 vintages leaned toward sleek, slender profiles, more acidity-driven than our wine, and the 2012 vintage was more Californian in style, with rich, concentrated, fruit-forward wines. The 2014 vintage, however, looks to be one for the ages, certainly the best in more than a decade, with concentrated, balanced wines with great aging potential.

This wine is from the 2014 vintage, making it three years old.

Appellation

We now know our wine is a Chardonnay from France, so we can eliminate Austria's Wachau, California's Napa Valley, Italy's Asti and Spain's Rias Baixas.

We're left with Alsace and Meursault. Alsace is a cool-climate region in northeastern France, on the border with Germany, that traditionally focuses on racy Rieslings, aromatic Gewürztraminers and bold Pinot Gris, among other white grapes. Chardonnay is grown here, but is not a strength of the region.

While in Meursault, in southern France's Burgundy, Chardonnay is the dominant grape. Whites from this AOC are a nice bridge between Old and New World. They have expressive, fresh orchard and stone fruit, with some citrus notes, as well as rich, creamy textures and spice. Most importantly, they reflect their soils well with a pungent minerality, which is very present in our mystery wine.

This Chardonnay is from Meursault.

Wine

This wine is the Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Meursault Perrières 2014. It scored 95 points in the July 31, 2017, issue of Wine Spectator; it is priced at $175, and 4 cases were imported. To learn more about this producer, read senior editor Bruce Sanderson's Feb. 22, 2017, blog post, "Brilliant Chardonnays from Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey".

—Aleksandar Zecevic, associate tasting coordinator

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