What Am I Tasting?

Can you bring to light this elegant, well-balanced white that is silky in texture?

September 10, 2015

Our blind tasting game—without the tasting! Can you identify a wine just by reading its tasting note? We post real Wine Spectator reviews. You use clues such as color, aromas, flavors and structure to figure out the grape, age and origin. Good luck!

Tasting Note: Well-balanced and silky in texture, with smoke, candied citrus peel and beeswax underscoring hints of lychee, melon and rose petal. Elegant and open-knit, with a spiced finish.

And the answer is...


Variety

We have a rather opulent wine here—ripe, with a wide variety of aromas and flavors. It’s pretty clear that we're dealing with an aromatic grape here.

Right away we should look at Chardonnay with a suspicious eye. Chardonnay can definitely show melon and citrus, but generally its fruit notes would stay within the more neutral fruit camps. Depending on where it's grown, it is capable of demonstrating tropical flavors, but rarely are we likely to see such exotic notes as rose and lychee. We can rule out Chardonnay.

Next up for closer inspection is Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc can cross the line into the aromatic camp, particularly in New World regions and/or in warmer climates. However, Sauvignon Blanc typically will show a lot more citrus and green notes like grass or bell pepper.

Chenin Blanc is not a bad choice here. A beeswax note is not uncommon for this grape, and candied citrus, melon and spice could all certainly apply. However, while this wine is described as being elegant, and it does have that bit of candied citrus, we'd typically expect to see more piercing acidity than we see here.

Torrontés is another good choice, as it is known for a mix of floral and fruit notes. In this case, however, the textural elements are a little out of synch for the grape. Most Torrontés is made in a fresh style, so the “silky” and "beeswax" notes that would suggest a richer, mouthfilling feel are less likely to apply to Torrontés.

Lychee, rose and spice with a mixture of fruit flavors is a pretty textbook description for Gewürztraminer, also known for its heady, exotic aromas. The textural elements are also in line for this grape, which has the ability to be quite full-bodied.

This wine is a Gewürztraminer.

Country or Region of Origin

Gewürztraminer tends to do well in cooler climates, as it has a tendency toward low acidity and high alcohol, and cooler temperatures help to preserve the freshness and prevent overly alcoholic, flabby wine.

It has not, as of yet, made much of a home for itself in Argentina, even in the country's cooler regions and higher altitudes—perhaps because Torrontés has taken the lead in the aromatic varietal camp in that country. South Africa has some Gewürztraminer plantings, but the wines often tend toward sweeter versions. We can rule out both of these countries.

New Zealand and Oregon have both produced successful versions of this grape, thanks in part to their cooler climates. However, plantings are still fairly rare in both places.

Gewürztraminer's spiritual home is France. Here it produces a full range of styles, from dry to sweet versions, and French Gewüztraminers are often held up as benchmarks for the grape.

This Gewüztraminer is from France.

Appellation

Marlborough is in New Zealand, Paarl is in South Africa, Salta is in northern Argentina and Willamette Valley is in Oregon—we can erase these all from the slate, leaving us with the two French regions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Alsace.

Languedoc-Roussillon is kind of like the Wild West when it comes to French wine. There's a lot of experimentation in this region, and a wide variety of grapes are grown here, including quite a few aromatic white grapes. However, Gewürztraminer isn't one it's known for.

By contrast, Gewürztraminer is revered in Alsace. It does particularly well on rich clay areas found in the Haut-Rhin section of the region. Here the grapes are able to achieve opulent and highly aromatic expressions in the wines they produce.

This Gewürztraminer is from Alsace.

Age

There are no overt signs of age here. The fruit and aromatics are all vibrant, so we can rule out the 6- to 9-year-old and 10 or more years old brackets. The silky texture and beeswax are both common to the grape, however, they could also indicate that the wine has had some time to mellow out through moderate aging at the winery. Let's hedge the bet and go with three to five years old.

This wine is from 2012, making it three years old.

Wine

This is the Emile Beyer Gewürztraminer Alsace Grand Cru Pfersigberg 2012, rated 91 points in the Nov. 15, 2014, issue of Wine Spectator, and it retails for $50. With its intense flavors and full body, this is a white wine that will pair with many foods that other white wines can’t stand up to. Try it with Thai or Indian food, or even lighter meats like pork. For more on the white wines of Alsace, see senior editor Alison Napjus' tasting report, "All About Alsace."

—Nicole Ruiz Hudson, assistant tasting coordinator