What Am I Tasting?

This is a crisp white with lemon and green peach notes, minerality and spice ... Play the game!

April 03, 2020

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: This crisp white shows a savory character, with ginger detail and leesy and briny notes framing a core of lemon and green peach flavors. The firm acidity is braced by a touch of spritz.

And the answer is...


Variety

We know that our mystery wine shows citrus and green stone fruit, as well as mineral and spice accents, with firm acidity adding crisp character. The touch of spritz is a valuable hint as well. Let’s unmask it, starting with the grape.

We can immediately eliminate Gewürztraminer as an option. This grape’s lower acidity doesn’t match our note, and we are missing its hallmark floral and lychee aromas. It’s also rarely made in a spritzy style.

Chenin Blanc can be medium to high in acidity, but Chenin’s fruits lean toward apple, melon and ripe peach, rather than the citrus and green peach in our wine. While Chenin Blanc is made in both dessert-style and sparkling wines, spritzy table wine versions are uncommon.

Pinot Blanc could be a potential match. In regions such as Italy’s Friuli/Venezia-Giulia, where it is known as Pinot Bianco, it can achieve citrus flavors and mineral elements, like our wine. However, Pinot Blanc’s acidity tends to be more moderate than the firm acidity in our note, especially when produced in riper versions like those of France’s Alsace. Our wine’s savory ginger note is also off the mark.

Viognier can show similar aromatics to our mystery wine, including stone fruit, saline minerality and spicy accents like ginger. But Viognier also tends to show fuller, supple body and oily texture, which there’s no sign of in our mystery wine. Spritz is again out of character as well.

Albariño produces lighter-bodied wines with high acidity, and aromas of citrus, as well as orchard and stone fruit. A hallmark of these wines is saline minerality, and younger bottles can show a bit of spritz.

This wine is an Albariño.

Country or Region of Origin

Albariño does not have a strong international presence, and is largely grown solely on its native Iberian peninsula. There are no known plantings of the grape in Germany, for instance. And Albariño is not grown in any significant acreage in France, either.

While Albariño is far from prominent in California, it can be found in regions such as Monterey, Central Coast and Napa Valley. While these wines show the grape’s signature acidity, they also tend to be riper and fuller than Old World counterparts, with juicier citrus and tropical fruit aromas and spicier accents. This doesn’t sound quite right for our wine.

Albariño is widely grown in Portugal, where it is also known as Alvarinho. While it is sometimes bottled on its own, the vast majority of Albariño plantings are dedicated to Vinho Verde white blends. These wines typically burst with grapefruit, lemon and lime notes, with racy acidity, but less commonly do show savory or leesy notes.

But in Spain, Albariño primarily stands on its own, with production centered in the region of Galicia. Some of Albariño’s most noted expressions are produced here, where younger bottlings show strong, integrated acidity with focused citrus and stone fruit elements. Briny and stony mineral notes are also prominent in these versions.

This Albariño is from Spain.

Appellation

Knowing that this Albariño is from Spain, we can eliminate Portugal’s Bairrada, France’s Condrieu, Germany’s Rheinhessen and California’s Sierra Foothills.

This leaves us with just two Spanish options: Rias Baixas and Ribeiro. Key to our determination will be these appellations’ proximity to the coast, which can have a strong impact on how and where Albariño is produced.

Sure enough, Ribeiro is an inland region with a warmer, drier climate. Here, Albariño shows lower acidity and riper fruit elements, and is often used in blends. Ribeiro is better known for its production of wines made from the Godello, Loureira and Treixadura grapes.

Rias Baixas is on the southwestern coast of Galicia, Spain. The region’s sea breezes, cooler temperatures and higher rainfall make for wines with greater salinity and acidity. These wines tend to display less ripe texture and fruit aromas, and Rias Baixas’ sandy soils are ideal for Albariño plantings.

This Albariño is from Rias Baixas.

Age

Knowing that our wine is crisp, with firm acidity and a touch of spritz, we can tell that this is a younger Albariño. Let’s home in on more recent vintages to figure out this white’s age.

In 2016 and 2017, Spain faced especially warm and dry weather. As to be expected, this made for riper Albariños with richer texture, more tropical aromas, and juicy rather than firm acidity. This doesn’t quite sound like our mystery wine. Let’s move on to more recent vintages. 2018 brought a welcome wave of cooler, wetter weather, resulting in wines with firmer acidity and bright, typical notes of citrus and green fruit. On the other hand, 2019 was marked by periods of intense, stormy weather in Galicia, and the overall quality of the vintage’s Albariños has yet to be determined.

This wine is from the 2018 vintage, making it two years old.

Wine

This wine is the Bodegas Riojanas Albariño Rias Baixas Veiga Naúm 2018, which scored 88 points in the Aug. 31, 2019, issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $15, and 720 cases were imported. For more on Spain’s white wines, read executive editor Thomas Matthews’ tasting report "Something Old, Something New," in the Oct. 15, 2019, issue.

—Julie Harans, assistant editor