What Am I Tasting?

This elegant and light-bodied red shows strawberry, iron, earth and spice notes ... Play the game!

October 30, 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: An elegant version, this red exhibits strawberry, currant, iron, earth and spice aromas and flavors. Given the light-weight frame, this is deceptively intense, with a lingering aftertaste of red berry and mineral.

And the answer is...


Variety

Our light-bodied red wine is intense and elegant, with notes of red berries, minerals and spices. Let’s figure out what it is!

We can start by eliminating Touriga Nacional, one of Portugal’s hallmark grapes. Whether it’s used for dry reds or fortified Port wines, Touriga Nacional produces full-bodied wines with dark fruit, herb and mineral flavors. Touriga Nacional’s mineral notes sound right, but its body and dark fruits don’t make sense.

We can also cross Zinfandel off the list. While Zinfandel produces intense reds like our wine, these tend to be medium- to full-bodied with concentrated dark fruit flavors and a distinct pepper note that’s missing in our wine. This doesn’t sound right, either.

Xinomavro, indigenous to Greece, can display red fruit and spice flavors alongside earthy accents and bright acidity. But Xinomavros are full-bodied wines packed with heavy tannins. It’ll have to go, too!

Grenache is made in a range of styles, from lighter and fresher versions to full-bodied and ageable wines. A lighter Grenache could certainly show our wine’s strawberry and spice flavors. But we are missing some of Grenache’s hallmark accents, like pepper and herb notes.

Pinot Noirs are often light-bodied wines with red fruit flavors, intense acidity and earthy, minerally accents. And oak barrel aging can give Pinots additional spice aromas like those in our wine. It looks like we’ve found a match!

This wine is a Pinot Noir

Country or Region of Origin

Though Pinot Noir is one of the world’s top international grape varieties, it isn’t produced in every wine region. It would be difficult to find Pinot plantings in Spain, where Tempranillo, Garnacha and Carignan are among the most popular red grapes. And while a few producers in Greece and Portugal are experimenting with Pinot bottlings, the grape isn’t prominent in either country, and local grapes still take the lead.

This leaves us with two of Pinot Noir’s premier regions, California and France. Due to its warmer climate, California tends to produce richer Pinots with darker, riper fruit flavors and dark spice accents like licorice. These riper New World Pinots also tend to have less acidity and more tannins. And we wouldn’t generally expect our wine’s iron and earth notes from a California Pinot as much as we would from French versions. Indeed, Pinots made in France, the grape’s home region, often display vibrant red fruit aromas with earth and iron accents. This sounds much closer to what we’re looking for.

This Pinot Noir is from France.

Appellation

We can eliminate Portugal’s Douro, Greece’s Naoussa, Spain’s Priorat and California’s Russian River Valley. We are left with two French appellations: Vacqueyras and Pommard. Vacqueyras is in the Southern Rhône Valley and its vineyards are planted to numerous red grape varieties, including Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache, but not Pinot Noir. Only one red grape is permitted in Burgundy’s Pommard appellation, and that’s Pinot Noir.

This Pinot Noir is from Pommard.

Age

Our Pinot is intense and its fruit flavors are still fresh, indicating a younger wine. Plus, it isn’t showing any signs of age, like mushroom or leather accents. But Pommard’s vintners tend to age their reds for about one to two years, and our wine’s spice notes indicate it’s spent some time in oak barrels. Still, we shouldn’t need to look beyond Burgundy’s most recent vintages to figure out our wine’s age.

The Côte de Beaune’s hot 2015 vintage yielded concentrated and ripe Pinot Noirs with dark fruit and fuller tannins. The region saw spring frosts in 2016 that lowered yields, producing dark-fruited reds with herbal and floral accents and firm tannins. 2017’s weather was more ideal in Burgundy, with Pinots that weren’t as muscular as those from the two previous years. These 2017 Pinot Noirs tend to display fresher acidity, red fruits and spice accents. This sounds like the closest match for our wine.

This Pinot Noir is from the 2017 vintage, making it three years old.

Wine

This is the Joseph Voillot Pommard Les Pèzerolles 2017 which scored 92 points. It retails for $137 and 225 cases were made. For more on Burgundy, read senior editor Bruce Sanderson’s tasting report "Quantity and Quality," in the May 31, 2020, issue of Wine Spectator.

—Monika Mrakavová, assistant tasting coordinator