What Am I Tasting?

This fresh red's cherry, herbal and mineral notes will show you the way …

August 23, 2019

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: A fresh style, with a pretty display of cherry and red currant fruit that has been gently infused with thyme, bay leaf and olive hints. Offers a lightly mulled edge on the finish, along with a fine thread of chalky minerality.

And the answer is...


This red is made in a fresh style, with bright red fruit, significant herbal and vegetal notes, and minerality. Let's see which varieties we can eliminate from our options.

Pinot Noir makes elegant reds with fresh red fruit and bright acidity, but flavors like thyme, bay leaf and olive are atypical. We can move on.

Both Malbec and Merlot highlight ripe black and blue fruit as opposed to fresh red fruit, and aren't particularly known for their minerality, especially not one chalky in character.

Sangiovese makes complex reds that have great longevity, mostly thanks to high acidity and a tannic structure. There isn't any indication of structure in our note, and again, the chalkiness in our minerality is not what you would find in Sangiovese. Additionally, while dried herbs can be found in this Italian variety, olive is a little off.

Cabernet Franc, on the other hand, is famous for its herbal and vegetal notes like the ones we have in our mystery wine, as well as its minerality, which from some terroirs can manifest as chalky. This is all backed by a mix of pure, fresh red fruit, like cherry and red currant.

This wine is a Cabernet Franc.

Country or Region of Origin

Cabernet Franc is grown in several regions of the world, but is very rare in Argentina, Austria and Chile, which we can rule out. Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Carmenère are the main reds in South America, and Austria tends to focus on Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt, as well as its whites.

In Italy, where indigenous grapes dominate the market, Cabernet Franc has a home, notably in Tuscany. However, Francs in the boot are typically blended with other Bordeaux varieties for bottlings known as super Tuscans, and are seldom bottled on their own. The riper character of the fruit here also tends to lead to Cabernet Francs without too much pronounced herbaceousness, so this does not line up with our wine.

That leaves us with France, where Cabernet Franc originates. It's used in blends in Bordeaux and as a single-variety wine in the Loire Valley, where it is the most important red grape. Here, it shows bright red fruit, herbal, vegetal and mineral notes.

This Cabernet Franc is from France.


We know that our wine is a Cabernet Franc from France, so we can eliminate Argentina's Mendoza, Austria's Burgenland, Chile's Rapel Valley and Italy's Toscana. We are left with two French appellations: Chinon and Pauillac.

Pauillac is on the Left Bank of Bordeaux and is always a blend of red grapes. Because of the soils, the wines are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, with Merlot as a blending partner and Cabernet Franc as a third wheel.

In Chinon, an appellation in the Loire Valley, Cabernet Franc is the star. Vintners here cultivate Cabernet Franc on many different soil types, displaying the unique terroirs in their bottlings. Our mystery wine does this well, showing chalkiness from the limestone soil in which the vines grow, bolstered by the variety's typical red fruit and herbal notes.

This wine is a Chinon.


The fresh style of our wine suggests that this hasn't spent any significant time aging. Cabernet Franc typically develops notes of leather and game after about five years or more. However, Franc still needs a little time in the cellar before it is bottled, and there is no mention here of tannins, which, for Franc, would have signaled a very young wine. We're probably looking at a wine that has just a few years of age.

The 2015, 2016 and 2017 vintages are all outstanding for Loire Valley Cabernet Franc, and have similar fresh and ripe-fruit profiles. The 2015s have slightly lower acidities than usual, so our "mulled edge" could be an indication that this wine is from this vintage.

This Cabernet Franc is from the 2015 vintage, making it four years old.


This wine is the Bernard Baudry Chinon Le Clos Guillot 2015, which scored 91 points in the Nov. 15, 2018, issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $38 and there were 200 cases imported. To read more about Chinon and wines from the Loire, read senior editor James Molesworth's tasting report, "Triple Play," in the same issue.

Aleks Zecevic, associate tasting coordinator