What Am I Tasting?

This vibrant white displays lemongrass, passion fruit and Key lime flavors ... Play the game!

November 20, 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: Vibrant, offering a powerful mix of lemongrass and passion fruit flavors, with details of tangerine, Key lime and green apple. Appealing and refreshing through the long finish.

And the answer is...


Variety

Our refreshing white wine offers a mix of citrus, apple, tropical fruit and herb flavors. What could it be?

We can begin by eliminating Viognier. We are missing that grape’s hallmark spice, honey, cream and floral notes. And we would expect a fuller, richer body from a Viognier.

Like our wine, Chardonnay can be made in a vibrant, leaner style with apple notes. However, it would be unusual for a lean Chardonnay to show notes of tangerine, passion fruit, lime and lemongrass. Let’s move on!

Marsanne can show exotic fruit character and herbal accents. This would be a good lead, except that Marsanne tends to produce medium-bodied whites with less assertive acidity than our vibrant, refreshing wine.

You can expect vibrant, lip-smacking acidity from Arinto wines, plus herbal accents and rich fruit flavors. But we are missing some of Arinto’s characteristic flavors: spice notes like vanilla, nutty accents and mineral details often described as “salty.” Arinto has to go, too.

Sauvignon Blancs can be made in several styles, most of them displaying refreshing acidity, herbal accents and a mix of robust tropical, citrus and orchard fruit flavors. This sounds much closer to the mark.

This wine is Sauvignon Blanc.

Country or Region of Origin

Sauvignon Blanc has a significant presence in many winegrowing regions. But Sauvignon Blanc plantings are rare in Germany, and only a few vintners are experimenting with the grape in Portugal, often using it in white blends. Washington is home to some Sauvignon Blanc vines, but Chardonnay and Riesling dominate the state’s white grape acreage.

Sauvignon Blanc is made in several styles throughout California’s diverse regions and climates. But generally, the Golden State’s sunshine and warm weather make for ripe and fleshy Sauvignon Blancs with luscious melon, floral and spice flavors that are sometimes backed by smoky accents (a result of oak aging). New Zealand has become a primary region for Sauvignon Blanc, producing versions with vibrant acidity and distinctive passion fruit, lime and herb flavors. This looks like the best match for our wine.

This wine is from New Zealand.

Appellation

We know that our Sauvignon Blanc is from New Zealand, so we can eliminate California’s Napa Valley, Germany’s Pfalz, Washington’s Rattlesnake Hills and Portugal’s Vinho Verde. This leaves us with the New Zealand appellations Central Otago and Marlborough. Surrounded by mountains, Central Otago has a dry climate that has proven best for Pinot Noir production. This has made it one of New Zealand’s few regions with low Sauvignon Blanc output. But Marlborough is renowned for its refreshing and aromatic Sauvignon Blancs with bright citrus and exotic fruit flavors that are supported by herbal accents.

This Sauvignon Blanc is from Marlborough.

Age

Our Sauvignon Blanc is vibrant and refreshing, with fresh fruit aromas and acidity, indicating that it is on the younger side. And it isn’t showing the round texture of an aged Sauvignon Blanc. Let’s look at Marlborough’s most recent vintages to figure out our white’s age.

2019 was an ideal vintage for New Zealand, yielding to high-quality Sauvignon Blancs with vibrant acidity and refreshing lime, passion fruit and herb flavors. 2018 was a more challenging year for the island nation, bringing one of the warmest growing seasons New Zealand had ever seen. This made for juicy, fuller-bodied Sauvignon Blancs with stone fruit, melon and citrus flavors backed by floral and spice details. The weather in 2017 was cool and wet, reducing the crop and resulting in rich Sauvignon Blancs with ginger and melon flavors, often with a hint of beeswax. Our wine falls in line with the vibrant acidity and flavors of 2019’s Sauvignon Blancs.

This Sauvignon Blanc is from the 2019 vintage, making it one year old.

Wine

This is the Ranga.Ranga. Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2019, which scored 89 points in the Sept. 30, 2020, issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $14 and 16,500 cases were imported. For more about New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, read senior editor MaryAnn Worobiec’s tasting report "Formula for Success," in the Sept. 30, 2020, issue.

—Aaron Romano, associate tasting coordinator