What Am I Tasting?

This white shows mango and jasmine flavors, with minerality and focused acidity ... Play the game!

July 24, 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: A beautiful white, featuring a mix of nectarine, mango and jasmine flavors, with focused acidity running through, connecting the elements and giving this a firm backbone. Multilayered, complex and long, marked by wet stone minerality on the mouthwatering finish. Pure and graceful.

And the answer is...


Variety

Our mystery wine displays peach, tropical fruit and floral flavors with firm, focused acidity and minerality. Let’s see if we can figure out what it is!

We can immediately eliminate Grenache Blanc. This grape produces whites with hefty body and lower acidity than what we see in our note, along with green fruit and citrus aromas. This doesn’t sound like what we’re looking for.

Sauvignon Blanc has a global presence and, like our wine, many versions of the grape display tropical fruit, minerality and firm acidity. However, Sauvignon Blancs also tend to show puckering citrus fruit, herb and grassy aromas not present in our wine, and its mineral flavors are often described as flinty or smoky rather than stony.

Viogniers have moderate body, as well as peach, mango and floral flavors. This sounds closer to the mark. However, we are missing Viognier’s distinctly creamy texture, and Viogniers have low to moderate acidity levels, unlike our wine. Let’s move on!

Native to France’s Loire Valley, Chenin Blanc is made in several styles around the world, ranging from dry to sweet versions. Although Chenin Blanc can share our wine’s high acidity and floral notes, we are missing Chenin’s rich brioche and marzipan flavors. And our wine’s mango note would be unusual for Chenin, which tends to show apple, pear, quince and citrus. Maybe another grape is a better fit?

Riesling is prized for its ability to express terroir, and its unique stony minerality or petrol character. More up-front, Riesling’s hallmark flavors are stone, tropical and citrus fruits, and it’s also very aromatic, with honeysuckle, jasmine and citrus peel. The grape’s naturally high acidity brightens these aromas, and can give balance and structure to sweeter versions.

This wine is a Riesling.

Country or Region of Origin

Riesling grows best in cool climates, where it can ripen slowly. But this hasn’t limited it to its home Old World regions, and it is now produced around the globe. However, the grape doesn’t have a strong foothold in Spain, where Albariño is the lead white grape. And while a few producers are experimenting with Riesling in South Africa, the grape is still not nearly as prominent there as Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. Although Riesling is becoming increasingly popular in Greece, especially in blends, its plantings still pale in comparison to local grapes like Assyrtiko, and even French varieties like Viognier.

Australia has joined the world’s leading countries for Riesling production, with noteworthy versions from Clare Valley. Though the valley has a warmer climate, its hills and coastal vineyards have allowed Riesling to thrive. However, unlike our wine, Clare Valley Rieslings usually display richer texture, bursting with ripe tropical flavors and citrus aromas, often lime, that we don’t see in our note. But Germany is Riesling’s homeland, home to the grape’s benchmark wines. Germany offers a wide variety of Riesling styles, organized by the country’s Prädikatswein classification system. While these include off-dry bottlings and rich dessert wines, Germany’s dry Rieslings are prized for their high acidity, stone fruit flavors and pronounced minerality. This sounds like a match!

This Riesling is from Germany.

Appellation

Knowing that we’re in Germany, we can eliminate Australia’s Clare Valley, Greece’s Crete, Spain’s Rías Baixas and South Africa’s Stellenbosch.

This leaves us with the Ahr and Mosel appellations, two river valleys in western Germany. In both regions, winemakers use steep vineyards and reflective rivers to give their grapes enough warmth and sunlight to fully ripen. However, Ahr’s vineyards are largely planted to red grapes, and the region is best-known for its Pinot Noirs, locally referred to as Spätburgunder. Germany’s Mosel region is home to the most sought-after Rieslings in the world, and the region’s cool climate and slate soils are ideal for producing wines just like our mystery bottle.

This Riesling is from Germany’s Mosel.

Age

Dry Rieslings can age beautifully for many years thanks to their high acidity. But after extensive aging, this acidity may become less intense, and the wines start to show dried fruit flavors and more complex aromas like petrol, beeswax or lanolin. Our wine isn’t showing any signs of age yet.

Let’s take a look at the most recently reviewed vintages of German Riesling. 2018 was ideal: Favorable weather throughout the growing season allowed grapes to fully ripen, yielding complex Rieslings with tropical and stone fruit flavors supported by powerful acidity and minerality. Conditions were not ideal in 2017, when spring frosts were followed by a warm, dry summer, which was in turn followed by challenging late-season rains. Nevertheless, the vintage quality remained outstanding, with lush and citrus-focused wines with herb and spice accents. 2016’s hot, dry summer led to ideal conditions for harvest, and supple, vibrant Rieslings on the aromatic and elegant side. The fruits, texture and acidity of 2018’s wines seem like the best fit for our note.

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

Wine

This is the Fritz Haag Riesling Mosel Trocken Juffer GG 2018, which scored 94 points in the June 30, 2020, issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $46, and 900 cases were made. For more on German Riesling, check out associate tasting coordinator Aleks Zecevic’s tasting report "Power & Poise," in the Aug. 31, 2020, issue.

—Taylor McBride, editorial assistant