What Am I Tasting?

Here's a white wine that has laser-like acidity and citrus and pear notes. Guess what it might be!

September 20, 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: Impressive for the purity of the pear, lemon and Makrut lime notes, set on a smooth, silky body, with a wonderfully refreshing laser beam of acidity. A hint of green tea shows on the finish.

And the answer is...


Variety

This white wine delivers pure orchard and citrus fruit flavors and mouthwatering acidity. Let's break down our note to see what we have in our glass.

While Chardonnay can certainly have some acid, a "laser beam" seems a little high for the grape. You might also expect to see a richer profile, riper fruit flavors and some oak influence. While this could feasibly be an unoaked, lean Chardonnay, there's likely a better match.

The same goes for Grenache Blanc, which tends to be full-bodied and rich, with crisp but relatively low acidity, and offers plump peach, pear and apple flavors.

Albariño is a Galician grape primarily grown in Spain and Portugal, where it goes by Alvarinho. At its best, it makes fresh wines that balance peach, grapefruit and almond flavors with mineral (often briny) and herbal (often grassy) notes. It's not quite what we're looking for, so we can move on.

Pinot Gris in France is made into fleshy, full-bodied wines with plenty of spice, while versions from Italy, where it goes by Pinot Grigio, are crisp and citrusy. The grape has naturally low acidity, which remains true in French Pinot Gris, which is also way too rich for our mystery wine. Pinot Grigio in Italy is generally picked very early to preserve acidity, but the resulting wines don't quite reach the complexity of our wine, and the green tea note is not a match either.

Riesling, on the other hand, ticks off all of the right boxes for our grape. It can make complex yet delicate wines in a range of styles, from bone-dry to sweet and everything in between. In general the wines exhibit fresh fruit flavors of pear, citrus and peach backed by aromatic qualities that can manifest as mineral, floral or herbal depending on where and how it's made. We have a winner.

This wine is a Riesling.

Country or Region of Origin

While Riesling has made a home in many countries around the world, it does best in cool climates. Portugal and Spain focus on indigenous varieties, and while Argentina is best known for its bold reds, white grapes are finding success there in cooler areas. There are limited plantings of Riesling however, as winemakers mostly focus on Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and the local Torrontés.

German immigrants brought Riesling to California in the 1850s, where the grape used to be referred to as Johannisberg Riesling or White Riesling. Today, only a few areas in the Golden State are cool enough for the grape to grow properly. California Rieslings can be juicy and floral, but they rarely possess the same intensity and laser-focused acidity as our wine.

Australia makes its own distinct style of Riesling from cooler sites in western and South Australia, as well as the island of Tasmania. Australian Rieslings often show off the citrus and orchard fruit character of the grape while weaving in aromatic notes, such as the green tea accents we have here. They are typically dry (with a few exceptions) and deliver refreshing, medium- to high-acidity whites. That sounds like our wine.

This wine is from Australia.

Appellation

Now that we know our wine is from Australia, we can eliminate Argentina's Salta, California's Napa Valley, Portugal's Dão and Spain's Rias Baixas. That leaves us with two Australian Geographical Indications (GIs), both located in the state of South Australia: Langhorne Creek and Clare Valley.

Langhorne Creek is one of Australia's oldest winemaking regions. Located on the Fleurieu Peninsula, it sits between Adelaide to the north and Lake Alexandrina to the south. It's influenced by southerly winds that sweep across Lake Alexandrina from the Southern Ocean, helping to moderate the summer heat. Langhorne Creek is predominately known for its red wines made from Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. While Chardonnay and other white grapes are grown here, Riesling has yet to find a foothold.

Clare Valley is located north of Langhorne Creek in the Mount Lofty Ranges zone. Settlers planted the area to grapes in the early 1840s and the region now boasts nearly 12,000 acres of vineyards on a variety of different soils, aspects and elevations. Clare Valley enjoys a moderate continental climate with hot summer days that are tempered by cool ocean breezes, especially at night. The region is best known for its Rieslings, making wines in mouthwatering styles marked by citrus fruit and aromatic, sometimes floral notes.

This Riesling is from the Clare Valley.

Age

The purity and intensity of the fruit flavors in our tasting note, as well as the pronounced acidity, indicate that the wine is still young. With that in mind, we can eliminate the oldest age brackets from our list.

Clare Valley vintners typically ferment their Riesling in stainless steel and bottle them early to highlight the vibrant fruit flavors. The current vintage of Riesling on the market is 2018, a year that enjoyed mild weather, allowing the grapes to ripen slowly and make full-flavored wines.

This Riesling is from the 2018 vintage, making it one year old.

Wine

This is the Grosset Riesling Clare Valley Alea 2018, which scored 90 points in the July 31, 2019, issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $37; 1,200 cases were made and 128 cases were imported. For more information on the wines of Australia, read senior editor MaryAnn Worobiec's latest tasting report, "Making Waves," in the Aug. 31, 2019 issue.

—Augustus Weed, tasting coordinator