what am i tasting?


Tasting Note

Posted June 20, 2013 Creamy pear, green melon and yellow apple fruit meld together and are enlivened with bright honeysuckle and ginger hints on the juicy finish.

And the answer is...


Varietal:

This lively mystery wine will help us narrow down the possibilities with its ripe golden fruit, floral and ginger notes intermingling on the palate and juicy finish.

The tasting note tells us this wine is rich with its creamy fruit and aromatic honeysuckle notes. Both characteristics indicate that it’s probably not Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, as these varietals tend to be light and zippy. Additionally, we don’t see the typical touchstones of either grape variety: crisp citrus notes (often described as grapefruit) and lingering herb or grass notes for Sauvignon Blanc, and light citrus and almond notes for Pinot Grigio.

Riesling is a possibility because it hits some of the same flavor characteristics, with pear, melon, apple, honeysuckle and ginger notes all making occasional appearances in Riesling tasting notes. But with no mention in our tasting note of minerality or pronounced, vibrant acidity, we can safely look elsewhere.

Chardonnay is a good option. Usually fuller-bodied and sometimes oaked, the creamy characteristics of our wine and its yellow apple fruit certainly could be Chardonnay. However, honeysuckle and ginger would be out of place with this grape.

This leaves us with Chenin Blanc, a grape known for its fragrant profile (in this case, the honeysuckle) that often exhibits white and melon fruit. Ginger is a hallmark of Chenin Blanc, and while the grape is made into wines from bone dry to fully dessert in style, its juiciness is always a signature.

This wine is a Chenin Banc.

Country:

We can quickly discount, Australia, Chile and Italy as options on our list, as none produce Chenin Blanc in any great quantity. Only two countries on our list are known for producing Chenin Blanc: France and South Africa.

Chenin Blancs from South Africa usually have what is referred to locally as fynbos. For those of us who write our tasting notes in English, not Afrikaans, this is a reference to an aromatic, herbal overtone that mirrors the herbaceous underbrush grown in abundance along the roadways in South Africa. Our wine lacks the fynbos character, and additionally it lacks the citrus and peach notes often associated with Chenin Blanc from South Africa. The layered melding of the white and melon fruit with accents of floral and spice is more typical of a French Chenin Blanc, as is the wine’s notably creamy texture (French Chenin often sees some time in oak).

This Chenin Blanc is from France.

Age:

Although many Chenins are made to be enjoyed young, the grape’s typically high acidity can recommend quality versions to moderate or extended aging. Our wine is fruit-forward and bright, with none of the grape’s secondary notes of wax, chamomile or honey that might indicate an older wine, so we can rule out the two oldest age brackets.

Looking at the two younger age brackets, our wine is unlikely to be only one to two years old. The acidity would be more pronounced if so, and we’d probably expect a version that was a bit lighter on its feet. The creamy weight of our wine suggests some oak fermentation and/or aging, so we can safely assume that this wine is a little bit older, in the three- to five-year category.

This wine three to five years old.

Appellation:

Immediately we can eliminate Casablanca Valley, Finger Lakes and Marlborough, as none of these appellations are known for growing Chenin Blanc or located in the two countries that we selected as possibilities for the grape. Because we’ve determined this is a French Chenin, we can also cross South Africa’s Stellenbosch off the list.

We have two French appellations to choose from: Alsace and Anjou. Alsace, located in northeastern France on the German border, is known for its high-acid bottlings of aromatic white grape varieties including Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat. Chenin Blanc is not a grape legally allowed as part of a wine labeled under any of Alsace’s AOCs, and little, if any, is grown there.

Anjou, on the other hand, is an appellation in the western part of France’s Loire Valley, the traditional home of Chenin Blanc. Although white wine accounts for a small part of the Anjou AOC total production—about a fifth—its dry versions of Chenin Blanc (often blended with a portion of Chardonnay) are a good introduction to the grape with appealing fruit character and bright acidity.

This Chenin Blanc is from Anjou in France’s Loire Valley.

Wine:

This wine is the Château de Fesles Anjou Sec La Chapelle Vieilles Vignes 2010, rated at 89 points on Wine Spectator’s 100-point scale in the May 31 issue. It retails for $26 a bottle and, interestingly, it is made by a producer better-known for dessert wines from the neighboring Bonnezeaux AOC. Along with the dry Anjou described here and its dessert wines, Château de Fesles also makes a Chardonnay and a rosé.

For more information on the wines of the Loire Valley, look for James Molesworth’s tasting report on the region in the June 15 issue.

—Julia Smith, assistant tasting coordinator

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