What Am I Tasting?

This ripe white shows creamed pear and apricot flavors with floral notes ... Play the game!

September 04, 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: Ripe and lush, with creamed pear, apricot and green melon flavors gliding through, lined with anise and honeysuckle notes on the effusive finish. A captivating display of fruit.

And the answer is...


Variety

We know that our wine is a lush white with orchard and stone fruit and melon notes, backed by floral and spice aromas. The creaminess shown in our note is also a helpful hint. Let’s see if we can pick the right grape.

We can rule out Albariño first. Widely grown in Spain and Portugal, Albariño is a light-bodied white that’s high in acidity, unlike our mystery wine. And Albariño’s aromas lean toward citrus and briny minerality, not the spice and floral accents we are looking for.

Sauvignon Blanc can show a range of profiles. In hotter climates, the grape can ripen enough to show tropical, melon and stone fruit, with floral accents. But Sauvignon Blancs are typically crisp, juicy and refreshing thanks to their bright acidity. Our lush and creamy wine is off the mark for Sauvignon Blanc.

Chenin Blanc is made in several styles and ripeness levels. While it can show orchard fruit, melon and honeysuckle notes, dry versions of Chenin Blanc are high in acidity. We’re also missing the mineral notes sometimes found in Chenin Blanc, and our mystery wine’s anise note is off the mark.

Grenache Blanc’s richer weight and lower acidity are on target with our note. Grenache Blancs can be full-bodied and plush, with creamy textures and orchard fruit notes. However, Grenache Blanc is less likely to show our wine’s melon and apricot flavors. Rather, we would expect more green fruit and citrus flavors, and we’re missing Grenache Blanc’s nutty or minerally elements. Let’s see if we have an even better fit.

Viognier is prized for its stone fruit, melon and honeysuckle notes, with spice accents. Its acidity is on the modest side, which lends it to richer wines often described as having a creamy or oily texture.

This wine is a Viognier.

Country or Region of Origin

Viognier is grown around the world, and it’s most successful in warmer climates. We’d be hard-pressed to find a Viognier vineyard in Slovenia, however. There are some plantings in Spain, but what little Spanish Viognier there is tends to be blended in with other white grapes. There’s also a small amount of Viognier grown in New York state, but the success of other white grapes such as Riesling and Chardonnay has greatly overshadowed it.

We’re left with two of the world’s most prominent regions for Viognier: France and California. California’s success with Rhône grapes over the past several decades includes Viognier. California Viogniers are prized for their ripe stone and tropical fruit flavors, often accompanied by toast and butter notes imparted by oak barrel aging. French Viogniers typically display creamier profiles with a balance of orchard, stone and tropical fruit flavors backed by floral hints and lighter spice. This sounds much closer to the mark.

This Viognier is from France.

Appellation

Knowing that our Viognier is from France, we can eliminate New York’s Finger Lakes, Slovenia’s Primorska, Spain’s Ribeira Sacra and California’s Santa Ynez Valley, leaving us with the French appellations of Burgundy and Condrieu.

Burgundy’s cool climate lends itself to the production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The latter is by far the region’s most prominent white grape, though there are also plantings of Sauvignon Blanc, Aligoté and Pinot Blanc. Condrieu, in France’s warm Northern Rhône Valley, is home to the world’s most prized bottlings of Viognier, which is the only grape permitted in the appellation.

This Viognier is from Condrieu.

Age

Our Viognier’s bright fruits and effusive finish point to a younger wine. Condrieus tend to see at least six months of barrel aging before release, with some versions spending more than a year in barrel. We can look to the most recently released vintages to pinpoint our wine’s age.

The 2018 harvest came under sunny, hot conditions in Condrieu, yielding wines with a creamy mix of ripe orchard, citrus and tropical fruit, with floral and spice hints. The 2017 growing season was ideal, producing juicy whites with exotic fruit flavors and bitter citrus aromas. The 2016 growing season was largely ideal as well, with fresh and energetic wines. Our wine’s mix of creamed fruit, floral and spice notes looks like a match for 2018.

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

Wine

This is the Les Vins de Vienne Condrieu La Chambée 2018, which scored 95 points in the Feb. 29, 2020, issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $85, and 672 cases were made. For more on the 2018 vintage in the Northern Rhône, read senior editor James Molesworth’s tasting report "Forging Ahead" in the Feb. 29, 2020, issue.

—Collin Dreizen, assistant editor