What Am I Tasting?

This mouthwatering white has nectarine, lychee, spice, mineral and floral notes ... Play the game!

October 01, 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: Lightly mouthwatering and finely balanced, with a zesty undertow of ground cardamom and white pepper notes that show hints of stone and smoke, revealing lush layers of ripe nectarine, lychee and pink grapefruit granita.

And the answer is...


Variety

Our mystery wine displays lush stone fruit, grapefruit and lychee notes with minerally, spicy and smoky accents, all supported by lightly mouthwatering acidity. Let’s figure out what it is!

We can begin by eliminating Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blancs can show our wine’s grapefruit, nectarine and mineral notes, but these are often joined by passion fruit, lime and gooseberry flavors with grassy, vegetal accents and high levels of bright acidity.

Chenin Blancs can have mineral notes and floral accents. But these tend to accompany rich orchard fruit, bread and honey flavors. This doesn’t sound right either.

Pinot Gris, aka Pinot Grigio, can make whites with zesty stone fruit, citrus and stone notes. While this sounds like our wine, it would be unusual for a Pinot Gris to display lychee, cardamom and smoke. Let’s move on.

Like our wine, Albariños mix citrus and stone fruit notes with spicy, minerally accents. However, we are missing Albariño’s distinctive saline and nut notes, as well as its high levels of tangy acidity. Maybe another grape works better?

Gewürztraminer makes highly aromatic white wines with zesty citrus, stone fruit and floral notes backed by spice, smoke and minerality. These are often joined by a distinctive lychee accent and low to moderate levels of acidity. It looks like we have a match!

This wine is a Gewürztraminer.

Country or Region of Origin

While Gewürztraminer is planted around the world, especially in cooler regions, it would be difficult to find it growing in Spain. A few wineries grow Gewürztraminer in South Africa, but the grape isn’t nearly as significant there as white varieties like Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Colombard and Sauvignon Blanc. There are some Gewürztraminer vines in New Zealand as well, but that country is far more focused on Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Though it’s still not a major grape for the region, Gewürztraminer is becoming increasingly popular in Oregon, where it makes rich versions with luscious honey, cream, candied fruit and pineapple notes. Gewürztraminer does have a strong foothold in France. French Gewürztraminers are made in a range of styles and sweetness levels, and often display moderate levels of acidity with balanced spice, stone fruit, citrus and mineral notes. This sounds like what we’re looking for!

This Gewürztraminer is from France.

Appellation

We know that our Gewürztraminer is from France, so we can eliminate New Zealand’s Marlborough, Spain’s Rías Baixas, South Africa’s Swartland and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. This leaves us with the French appellations of Alsace and Pouilly-Fumé. Located in the Loire Valley, Pouilly-Fumé is well-known for its crisp and minerally whites, which are made exclusively from Sauvignon Blanc. Several white grapes are grown in Alsace, including Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. The region’s Gewürztraminers tend to display complex profiles of floral, spice and lychee notes.

This Gewürztraminer is from Alsace.

Age

Our Gewürztraminer is still mouthwatering with lively fruit notes, so it’s likely on the younger side. And Alsatian winemakers tend not to age their Gewürztraminers for very long, so let’s look at Alsace’s most recent vintages to figure out our wine’s age. Spring started cold with some frost in 2019, resulting in Gewürztraminers with citrus, pepper and stony mineral notes, all lifted by moderate levels of acidity. Sunny, warm weather helped ripen grapes in 2018, making for creamy Gewürztraminers with baked fruit and honey notes. Frost challenged Alsace’s wineries in 2017, and that year yielded rich Gewürztraminers with lemon, orange and ginger notes. 2019’s Gewürztraminers seem closest to the mark.

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

Wine

This is the Weinbach Gewürztraminer Alsace Cuvée Laurence 2019, which scored 92 points in 2021. It retails for $50, and 80 cases were imported. For more on Alsace’s wines, read senior editor Alison Napjus’ tasting report, “Extreme Alsace,” in the May 31, 2018, issue of Wine Spectator.

—Taylor McBride, assistant editor