What Am I Tasting?

This lively red shows cherry, toast and vanilla flavors with orange peel acidity ... Play the game!

November 24, 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: This round, juicy red is fresh and lively. Black cherry, tangy plum, leafy, toast and vanilla flavors mingle over moderate tannins and orange peel acidity. Bright and accessible, but has the structure to age.

And the answer is...


Variety

Our juicy red displays dark fruit, leaf, toast and vanilla notes, all supported by lively, citrusy acidity and a moderate level of tannins. Let’s figure out what it is.

We can start by eliminating Gamay, a grape that makes floral, light-bodied wines with red fruit notes and low levels of tannins.

Though Malbec can produce rich and full-bodied wines with dark fruit, vanilla and leaf notes, these reds also tend to have lower levels of acidity. This doesn’t sound like a match for our bright and lively wine either.

Zweigelts show higher levels of bright acidity, along with cherry and spice flavors. While this sounds right, Zweigelts also have low levels of tannins. Maybe another grape works better?

Nebbiolos have moderate to high levels of acidity and structured tannins, along with cherry, vanilla, toast and leaf notes. This could be a match, but our wine is missing Nebbiolo’s hallmark floral, leather and tar flavors. Nebbiolo has to go too.

Tempranillos can have dark fruit, toast and vanilla flavors with herbal, leafy accents. These often join citrusy acidity and moderate to high levels of tannins. This sounds like what we’re looking for.

This wine is a Tempranillo.

Country or Region of Origin

While Tempranillo grows in several countries, it doesn’t have a presence in Italy or Austria. There’s some Tempranillo grown in Oregon, but it isn’t nearly as significant there as grapes like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Gamay. Tempranillo has plantings throughout Argentina, but it’s not as widely grown there as Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. Unlike our wine, Argentine Tempranillos often pair dark fruit flavors with cocoa, coffee, meat and mineral accents. Tempranillo traces its origins to the Iberian Peninsula and is still Spain’s most important red grape. Spanish Tempranillo styles vary, but these wines tend to have plenty of tannins, bright acidity and dark fruit notes. Most Spanish vintners age their Tempranillos in oak, which imparts toasty and spicy details. Spanish Tempranillo sounds like the best match.

This Tempranillo is from Spain.

Appellation

We know that our Tempranillo is from Spain, so we can eliminate Oregon’s Dundee Hills, Argentina’s Maipu, Italy’s Sardinia and Austria’s Wachau. This leaves us with the Spanish appellations Bierzo and Rioja. Located in northwestern Spain, Bierzo primarily uses the Mencía grape to make medium-bodied reds. Rioja is also in northern Spain, and is well-known for making rich, Tempranillo-based wines.

This Tempranillo is from Rioja.

Age

Our Tempranillo is still bright and lively with fresh fruit notes, and it still has the structure to age, which could mean it’s a younger wine. But we should keep in mind that Riojas must be aged in oak barrels for at least one year, and are often aged longer. Now let’s look at Rioja’s most recently released vintages to figure out our wine’s age. In 2018, cooler weather produced fresher Riojas with coffee, anise and loamy earth notes. Rioja’s 2017 growing season was difficult, resulting in bold reds with cola, mineral and cocoa accents. 2016 was a warm year, and its reds are structured and balanced with licorice, tar and earth notes. Rioja’s weather was hot and dry in 2015, producing structured wines with bright acidity and dark fruit, leaf and vanilla flavors. 2015’s wines seem closest to the mark.

This Tempranillo is from the 2015 vintage, making it six years old.

Wine

This is the Bodegas Beronia Rioja Reserva 2015, which scored 93 points in the Oct. 15, 2020, issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $20, and 3,500 cases were imported. For more on Spain’s wines, read our tasting report, "Spanish Revival" in the Oct. 15, 2021, issue.

Collin Dreizen, assistant editor