What Am I Tasting?

This mouthwatering red has a cranberry core with earthy and herbal accents ... Play the game!

April 16, 2021

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: There's a mouthwatering core of cranberry and pomegranate notes, with touches of forest floor, tomato leaf and tobacco, and firming tannins on the finish.

And the answer is...


Our red-fruited mystery wine shows earthy and herbal notes supported by mouthwatering acidity and firm tannins on the finish. What could it be? Let’s narrow down our options.

We can start by eliminating Touriga Nacional, a grape that makes full-bodied reds with blue fruit, floral and mineral notes. Though our wine shows some firm tannins on the finish, this isn’t a good match for Touriga Nacional’s high levels of dense tannins.

Cabernet Sauvignon can show red fruit and tobacco notes. However, Cabernet tends to be full-bodied with plentiful tannins. Plus, it would be unusual to describe Cabernet’s acidity as “mouthwatering.”

Frappato also displays red fruit with herbal accents. But Frappatos are distinctly light-bodied, and it would be unlikely for one to finish with firming tannins. We’re also missing Frappato’s pepper and spice notes. Let’s move on!

Like our wine, Valdiguié has mouthwatering acidity, moderate levels of tannins and red fruit notes. This sounds correct so far. However, our wine is missing Valdiguié’s hallmark floral notes, and tobacco and tomato leaf would be atypical for Valdiguié.

Pinot Noirs are generally lighter- to medium-bodied wines with low to moderate levels of tannins that underscore mouthwatering red fruit notes and earthy, herbal accents.

This wine is a Pinot Noir.

Country or Region of Origin

Pinot Noir is native to France, but it’s a global success story, especially in cooler climates. But it doesn’t have a strong foothold in Portugal or Argentina, where other red grapes take the lead. Pinot Noir is popular in northern Italy, where it’s known as Pinot Nero, but Italian Pinots lean toward spicy and rustic characters, with dark fruit notes, chewy tannins and lower levels of fresh acidity.

France’s Pinot Noirs often emphasize savory, minerally, earthy and sometimes oaky notes, with less focus on their cherry and currant flavors. New Zealand is also home to world-class Pinot Noirs, but these versions generally highlight a core of expressive fruit notes with good minerality and leafy and herbal accents.

This Pinot Noir is from New Zealand.


We know that our Pinot Noir is from New Zealand, so we can eliminate Portugal’s Douro, France’s Languedoc-Roussillon, Argentina’s Mendoza and Italy’s Sicily. This leaves us with two New Zealand appellations: Central Otago and Marlborough. Pinot Noir is a prized grape in Central Otago, where it makes muscular wines with fleshy dark fruit notes and mineral, floral and rich spice accents. Farther north, Marlborough’s Pinots are characterized by red fruit notes with leafy accents, fresh acidity and moderate levels of tannins. This sounds closer to the mark.

This Pinot Noir is from Marlborough.


Our wine’s mouthwatering acidity and firm finish indicate a younger Pinot Noir. And its red fruit notes aren’t showing any signs of age. Some New Zealand vintners age their Pinot Noirs for several years in oak barrels, but our wine isn’t showing any oaky notes. So let’s look at New Zealand’s most recent vintages to determine this wine’s age.

2019 was largely warmer and drier than previous vintages, producing a crop of Pinot Noirs with bright acidity, some firm tannins, red fruit notes and leafy, herbal accents. 2018 was a challenging year, with one of New Zealand’s warmest growing seasons on record, leading to juicy and peppery Pinots with supple tannins and tea accents. 2017 was a cool and wet year with reduced yields, making for concentrated Pinots with herbal, loamy details. 2016 was a dry year that offered intense Pinots with spice and tea elements. Based on our wine’s youthful mouthwatering core of fruit and its alignment with the flavor profile, acidity and structure of the 2019 vintage, we can make a very educated guess.

This Pinot Noir is from the 2019 vintage, making it two years old.


This is the Duck Hunter Pinot Noir Marlborough 2019, which scored 89 points in the Nov. 30, 2020, issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $30, and 2,000 cases were imported. For more on New Zealand’s wines, read senior editor MaryAnn Worobiec’s tasting report, "Formula for Success," in the Sept. 30, 2020, issue.

—Aaron Romano, associate tasting coordinator