What Am I Tasting?

A light-bodied red with cherry, raspberry and floral notes … Play the game!

November 01, 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: Light-bodied, with a fresh mixture of black cherry, raspberry and strawberry notes, accented by tea, spice and floral details. Light, glossy tannins add a nice texture through the long, herb-tinged finish.

And the answer is...


Variety

Our mystery wine has fruit, spice and everything nice—including descriptors that will help us narrow down what grape it is.

Cabernet Sauvignon is possibly the most well-known and popular red grape in the world. It's native to France and serves as the core of Left Bank Bordeaux blends, but it's also a star in New World regions like California, Washington, South America, South Africa and Australia. The grape has thick skins, which translate to robust tannins in the wines, which are full-bodied, with dark fruit like plum and black currant—unlike our wine.

Another grape of French origin, Malbec, has found its greatest success in Argentina, where it is now the country’s most widely planted wine grape. Malbec is also very full-bodied, with dark purple hues, so is not a match for our light-bodied wine. It also shows plum and blackberry fruit, as well as vanilla, tobacco and dark chocolate notes. This doesn’t sound like our wine.

Although it will always be the darling of the Northern Rhône in France, Syrah makes fantastic wines in Australia and South Africa, where it is also known as Shiraz, as well as on the West Coast here in the U.S. These wines range from meaty, savory Old World versions to riper, fruitier, sometimes jammy New World versions. Syrah does show an array of red and black fruit, but it is also a decidedly medium- to full-bodied wine with structured tannins. Floral and herbal details are common, but tea notes don’t necessarily track with Syrah. Additionally, our note is missing the grape’s signature black pepper notes.

From red to black fruit, spicy to savory notes, good structure and bold, ripe flavors, a good Zin has a lot to offer. In general, Zins are neither shy nor subtle, so our wine’s light body, light tannins and floral details don’t seem to be a great match.

Gamay, on the other hand, typically has a light body and light tannins. It is also red berry–forward, with flavors like cherry, raspberry and strawberry, often complemented by floral and herbal notes. It looks like we have a match!

This wine is a Gamay.

Country or Region of Origin

Gamay is not the most widely planted grape in the world. In fact, its footprint is quite small. There are no significant plantings in Argentina, Australia or Italy. Gamay works well in cool climates, which is why some producers in Oregon have started working with the variety; it’s gaining traction, but has not quite found its footing yet amid the state’s world-class Pinot Noirs.

For the most part, it is still somewhat difficult to find Gamay made from outside of France, where it makes light-bodied, fresh wines with red fruit, floral and herbal notes.

This Gamay is from France.

Appellation

Since we established that this wine is from France, we can eliminate the non-French appellations: Australia’s McLaren Vale, Argentina’s Mendoza, Italy’s Primitivo di Manduria and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. That leaves us with Beaujolais and Bordeaux’s Médoc. While the Bordelais allow several red grapes in their blends, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, Gamay is not one of them, making it impossible for our wine to be from the Médoc. In Beaujolais, however, Gamay reigns supreme, making reds that range from fruity and easy-drinking to serious and structured, and everything in between, all while keeping their red berry, floral and herbal profile.

This Gamay is from Beaujolais.

Age

Most Gamays are approachable reds released early and ready to drink at a young age. In fact, Beaujolais is well-known for its Nouveau wines, which are released each year on the third Thursday in November, very shortly after harvest, to celebrate the new crop. If we also consider our wine’s freshness and glossy tannins, it’s a safe bet to deduce that it’s on the younger side. The 2017 growing season was challenging, and many producers lost large portions of their crop due to hailstorms, but what did survive resulted in wines packed with red berry fruit, much like our tasting note.

This wine is from the 2017 vintage, making it two years old.

Wine

This wine is the Domaine de Fa Beaujolais En Besset 2017. It received 90 points in Wine Spectator’s Nov. 15, 2019, issue, it retails for $21 and 800 cases were imported. For more information about Gamay and Beaujolais, be on the lookout for associate editor Gillian Sciaretta’s Beaujolais Nouveau tasting report later this month. In the meantime, check out her video interview with winemaker Edouard Parinet.

—Cassia Schifter, associate tasting coordinator