What Am I Tasting?

This sleek white has lively acidity and notes of peach, celery and pepper ... Play the game!

January 21, 2022

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: The texture has richness, offsetting the lively acidity and framing flavors of peach, apple, lentil and celery root. It's balanced on the sleek side, with a peppery finish.

And the answer is...


Variety

Our sleek and richly textured white wine has lively acidity and vegetal, peppery notes alongside orchard and stone fruit flavors. Let’s figure out what it is!

We can start by eliminating Viognier, which tends to make fuller-bodied wines with exotic fruit notes, floral accents, creamy textures and lower levels of acidity.

Grenache Blancs can show our wine’s richness and fruit. But these full-bodied whites also have lower levels of acidity. Let’s move on!

A lighter style of Chardonnay could show our wine’s lively acidity and rich fruit flavors. But celery, lentil and pepper notes would be unusual for Chardonnay. Maybe another grape works better?

Albariño makes wines with lively acidity and white stone fruit flavors. This sounds right, except our peppery wine is missing Albariño’s hallmark saline note.

Grüner Veltliner can make light-bodied whites with lively acidity, green vegetal notes and peppery accents. This sounds like our wine.

This wine is a Grüner Veltliner.

Country or Region of Origin

Grüner Veltliner doesn’t have a strong international presence; it would be difficult to find it growing in Spain or France. There are a few Grüner plantings in Oregon, but the grape isn’t nearly as significant there as varieties like Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. There are a few California wineries making Grüner. These versions tend to display tropical fruit, citrus and melon notes. Grüner is the premier white grape in Austria, where it is used to make a range of styles, including light-bodied and lively wines. It looks like we have a match!

This Grüner Veltliner is from Austria.

Appellation

We know that our Grüner Veltliner is from Austria, so we can eliminate France’s Côtes du Rhône, Oregon’s Dundee Hills, California’s Monterey and Spain’s Rías Baixas. This leaves us with two Austrian appellations: Eisenberg and Kremstal. While there is some Grüner grown in Eisenberg, this southeastern region is best-known for making Blaufränkisch-based red wines. Farther north, Austria’s Kremstal region is acclaimed for its Grüners.

This Grüner Veltliner is from Kremstal.

Age

Our Grüner Veltliner’s acidity is still lively and its fruit notes are fresh, which points to a younger wine. Let’s look at Austria’s most recently released vintages to figure out its age. A warm summer followed a cool spring in 2019, resulting in balanced whites with lively acidity, orchard fruit flavors and vegetal notes. Summer was warm in 2018 too, leading to concentrated Grüners with baked fruit, rich spice and mineral flavors. Weather conditions were ideal in 2017, which yielded a crop of rich Grüners with creamy, herbal, spicy and smoky details. 2016 was a challenging, lower-yield vintage that produced opulent Grüners with salt, vanilla and tropical fruit flavors. The acidity and flavors of 2019’s Grüners seem closest to the mark.

This Grüner Veltliner is from the 2019 vintage, making it three years old.

Wine

This is the Salomon-Undhof Grüner Veltliner Kremstal Ried Wachtberg 2019, which scored 90 points in 2021. It retails for $37, and 550 cases were made. For more on Austria’s white wines, read senior editor Bruce Sanderson’s tasting report, "Austrian Duet," in the Aug. 31, 2021, issue of Wine Spectator.

Collin Dreizen, assistant editor