What Am I Tasting?

This succulent white wine has fresh acidity and notes of lemon, peach and mango ... Play the game!

October 29, 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: Rich and succulent, with melon, peach and mango flavors that are fleshy and ripe, showing details of honeysuckle, candied ginger, lemon curd and lemon blossom, while fresh acidity lingers on the finish.

And the answer is...


Variety

Our rich and succulent white wine displays tropical and stone fruit flavors with floral, spicy and citrusy details that are supported by fresh acidity. Let’s dive in and figure out what it is!

We can immediately eliminate Arneis, a grape that makes wines with lower levels of acidity and notes of orchard fruit, honey and nuts.

Verdejos can show our wine’s fresh acidity, along with citrus, peach and melon notes. But these light-bodied whites aren’t very rich or succulent. Verdejo has to go too.

Like our wine, Chardonnay can be rich with tropical fruit, peach, spice and creamy citrus notes. But it’s unlikely that such a luscious Chardonnay would show our wine’s fresh acidity and floral notes. Maybe another grape works better?

Pinot Gris can make fuller-bodied whites with moderate levels of fresh acidity, plus peach, melon, lemon and floral notes. While this sounds right, our wine is missing Pinot Gris’ hallmark mineral and nut notes. We’ll have to move on.

Sauvignon Blanc can be made in several styles, including rich and tropical versions that mix bright acidity with citrus, cream and floral accents. We’ve found a match!

This wine is a Sauvignon Blanc.

Country or Region of Origin

Sauvignon Blanc grows around the world, but it doesn’t have a strong foothold in Oregon, where Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling are the primary white varieties. While it’s easier to find plantings in Spain, Spanish vintners often blend Sauvignon Blanc with local grapes like Macabeo and Verdejo. Many Italian winemakers use Sauvignon Blanc on its own, but they tend to emphasize the grape’s herb, grass, mineral and lemon peel flavors. Sauvignon Blanc likely originates in France and is still used there to make leaner whites with orchard fruit, gooseberry, herb, grass and mineral notes. These contrast with California’s Sauvignon Blancs, which are often richer with ripe melon, tropical fruit, peach and cream notes. This sounds closest to the mark.

This Sauvignon Blanc is from California.

Appellation

We know that our Sauvignon Blanc is from California, so we can eliminate Oregon’s Dundee Hills, France’s Hermitage, Italy’s Langhe and Spain’s Rueda. This leaves us with two California appellations: El Dorado and Yountville. Located in the Sierra Foothills, El Dorado is a mountainous region with rugged terrain. Several grape varieties grow here, but only about 40 of El Dorado’s 2,000 vineyard acres are planted to Sauvignon Blanc. Farther west in Napa Valley, Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most significant grapes used in the Yountville AVA, where cool, ocean-influenced weather helps it retain its acidity. Of the two appellations, Yountville seems like the stronger choice.

This Sauvignon Blanc is from Yountville.

Age

Our Sauvignon Blanc’s fresh acidity and fruit notes point to a younger wine. Knowing that many California winemakers release their Sauvignon Blancs shortly after bottling, let’s look at Napa Valley’s most recent vintages to figure out our wine’s age. Wildfires burned through Napa in 2020, and that year’s Sauvignon Blancs are rich with intense acidity and fresh tropical, peach and floral notes. 2019’s weather was largely ideal for grape growth, resulting in vibrant whites with lime, passion fruit and pepper notes. Napa had a wet winter in 2018, making for Sauvignon Blancs with spicy, saline and waxy details. Based on their acidity and flavors, 2020’s Sauvignon Blancs sound the most like our wine.

This Sauvignon Blanc is from the 2020 vintage, making it one year old.

Wine

This is the Gamble Family Sauvignon Blanc Yountville Gamble Vineyard 2020, which scored 92 points in the Nov. 30, 2021, issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $28, and 2,190 cases were made. For more on California Sauvignon Blanc, read senior editor MaryAnn Worobiec’s tasting report, "Serious Sauvignon," in the April 30, 2021, issue.

—Aaron Romano, associate tasting coordinator