What Am I Tasting?

This fresh and light-bodied red shows red fruit flavors and floral notes ... Play the game!

December 22, 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: Light-bodied and elegant, with tangy raspberry and currant flavors marked with nuances of white pepper, rose water and apricot. Crispy acidity gives this freshness, with herb and mineral notes lining up on the finish.

And the answer is...


Variety

Our fresh and light-bodied mystery wine shows crisp acidity and red fruit flavors with floral, peppery and minerally accents. Let’s figure out what it is!

We can begin by eliminating Syrah, which tends to make full-bodied wines with high levels of tannins, dark fruit flavors and black pepper notes.

Cabernet Francs can display red fruit flavors, but they also tend to be fuller-bodied with distinctive vegetal hints like green bell pepper. Not a match.

Touriga Franca can make wines with red fruit, pepper, mineral and rose notes, which sounds right. While these reds aren’t full-bodied, they tend to come with high levels of rich tannins. This doesn’t sound right either.

Barberas can have fresh acidity and low levels of tannins, along with red fruit flavors and herbal, peppery accents. While those flavors might be on target, Barberas also tend to be fuller-bodied. Let’s see if there’s a better candidate.

Gamay is well-known for light-bodied reds with low levels of tannins. These often feature tangy red fruit flavors with rose, mineral and white pepper notes. We’ve found a match!

This wine is a Gamay.

Country or Region of Origin

Gamay grows in several countries around the world, but it doesn’t have a foothold in Spain or Italy, and there are only a few producers experimenting with the grape in Australia. It’s an increasingly popular variety in California, where it is often slated for rosés. While California’s red Gamays are generally light-bodied, they tend to be riper with dark fruit and spice notes. This contrasts with Gamays from France, which often emphasize the grape’s red fruit, floral and mineral notes. France’s Gamays sound closest to the mark.

This Gamay is from France.

Appellation

We know that our Gamay is French, so we can eliminate Australia’s Barossa Valley, Portugal’s Douro, California’s Sonoma and Italy’s Tuscany. This leaves us with the French appellations Bordeaux and Moulin-à-Vent. Located in southwest France, Bordeaux is known worldwide for making rich and full-bodied reds from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Gamay is the primary red grape in Moulin-à-Vent, one of the crus of eastern France’s Beaujolais region, where it is used to make fresh and tangy wines.

This Gamay is from Moulin-à-Vent.

Age

Our wine is still fresh with crispy acidity and tangy red fruit notes, and it isn’t showing any signs of age or significant time spent in barrel. Generally, Beaujolais winemakers don’t age their wines very long before release (the region’s well-known Nouveau bottlings are released in the same year their grapes are harvested). So let’s look at Beaujolais’ most recent vintages to figure out our Moulin-à-Vent’s age.

Drought pressured Beaujolais in 2020, and that year’s wines tend to have citrus and licorice accents. Beaujolais experienced severe spring frosts in 2019, leading to a smaller harvest and wines with herbal, mineral and rose notes. Summer was dry and hot in 2018, and the vintage’s reds are often medium-bodied with ripe dark fruit and coffee notes. Hailstorms hit Beaujolais in 2017, but winemakers persevered to make reds with licorice and spice notes. 2019’s wines sound like what we’re looking for.

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

Wine

This wine is the Albert Bichot Moulin-à-Vent Domaine de Rochegrès 2019, which scored 91 points in the Oct. 31, 2021, issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $33, and 1,870 cases were made. For more on Beaujolais, read "Gamay Time," in the Dec. 31, 2020, issue of Wine Spectator.

—Taylor McBride, assistant editor