What Am I Tasting?

This powerful red has notes of raspberry tart and dark chocolate. Think you know what it is?

October 04, 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: Ripe and powerful, with concentrated flavors of dark cherry, raspberry tart and dark currant that offer notes of hot stone. Accents of tar and dark chocolate show on the finish.

And the answer is...


Variety

To break down this tasting note and reveal our mystery wine, let's start by looking at body and structure. Descriptors like "powerful" and "concentrated" hint that the wine is medium- to full-bodied, with significant structure and extraction. We can therefore rule out Pinot Noir, a grape with thin skins that yields light- to medium-bodied wines with less structure or rich fruit flavors than our wine.

Barbera is on the more concentrated end of the spectrum, but the Italian grape typically makes wines that are characterized by a red berry–forward brightness and freshness from its high acidity, which doesn't sound like a fit for these rich, dark flavors.

Carignan can certainly show concentrated flavors such as dark chocolate and licorice, not too far from our note's tar, but its fruit is also solidly in the bright red berry arena, as opposed to dark and tart-like. Plus, its signature spice and meaty notes are absent here.

Grenache in France, or Garnacha in Spain, can show ripe fruit flavors and accents of leather and tar. The fruit profile can range from bright red fruit to dark ripe fruit depending on where it grows and the winemaking style, so it's possible our wine is a particularly rich example. However, we are missing Grenache's signature herbal notes, as well as its peppery spice. Dark chocolate is also somewhat out of character.

Cabernet Sauvignon seems to fit the bill much more than any of our other options. It yields wines with exceptional power, concentration and structure. Its classic flavors include ripe red and dark fruits, as well as mineral notes like tar and hot stone, and in some climes, rich accents of dark chocolate.

This wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Country or Region of Origin

Though Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in a wide range of regions worldwide, Germany isn't one of them, as its cool climate is an unfavorable environment for the late-ripening grape. In Spain, while it's definitely warm enough, Cabernet has not made as big a mark as native varieties like Tempranillo and Garnacha. There are some standalone examples, but it's mostly used as a secondary blending grape to add structure and body.

Cabernet Sauvignon can have a very different profile in the Old World than in the New World. In the former, its top regions are France's Bordeaux and Italy's Tuscany. Here, they are made in Bordeaux-style blends, complemented by Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Let's look at our note carefully. The fruit profile fits: ripe, concentrated, dark fruit. Mineral notes are prominent in Old World versions, particularly in France, but this usually manifests as graphite and iron, as opposed to hot stone. Dark chocolate? Sounds more like a New World Cabernet. And let's also look at what's not here: the savoriness and pronounced vegetal or herbal qualities common to many Bordeauxs.

New World versions of the grape certainly accentuate fruit over savory notes. Chile has made a name for itself with Cabernet, making full-bodied reds with ripe, sweet fruit, like raspberry tart, that also feature the concentration and structure the grape is known for. Additional rich, sweet notes like dark chocolate are common here as well.

This Cabernet Sauvignon is from Chile.

Appellation

Since we know our wine is from Chile, we can eliminate Germany's Baden, Italy's Alba, France's Pauillac and Spain's Priorat. This leaves us with Leyda Valley and Maipo.

Leyda Valley is a very cool appellation in Chile, where producers focus on white wines like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, as well as some reds, like Pinot Noir and even a little Syrah. The area's climate is not ideal for ripening Cabernet Sauvignon.

Maipo Valley, on the other hand, is a renowned source of Cabernet Sauvignon because of its warmer climate, yielding full-bodied, concentrated reds with ripe fruit.

This Cabernet Sauvignon is from Maipo.

Age

Cabernet Sauvignon is particularly ageworthy, and it's also a wine that needs significant aging time before it's released to give its hefty structure and flavors a chance to integrate. As Cabernet matures, brightness and freshness are replaced by tertiary notes and softer tannins. Our wine seems to be somewhere in the middle: Its tar and chocolate notes signify signs of aging, especially oak barrel aging, but it's still exhibiting ripe fruit elements and has the power and concentration of a relatively youthful wine.

The three-to-five-year range is our best option. The 2016 vintage had untimely rains that led to less concentrated flavors, so that's a wash, but both 2014 and 2015 gave way to reds that are powerful yet retained their bright fruitiness.

This Cabernet Sauvignon is five years old, from the 2014 vintage.

Wine

This is the MontGras Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Intriga Maxima 2014, which scored 91 points in the June 30, 2018, issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $91 and 150 cases were imported. For more on Chilean wines, read senior editor Kim Marcus' tasting report, "Age of Exploration," in the May 31, 2019, issue.

—Julie Harans, assistant editor