What Am I Tasting?

This lean and steely white shows apple, earth, herb and mineral notes ... Play the game!

March 18, 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: A lean and steely white, with moderate apple and earth flavors and touches of herbs and graphite for grace notes. Puts on some weight midpalate, before converging on the stony finish.

And the answer is...


Variety

Our lean mystery white has some weight and flavors of orchard fruit and earth accented by herb and mineral notes. Let’s figure out what it is!

We can begin by eliminating Assyrtiko, which makes wines with high levels of acidity and notes of citrus, tropical fruit, salt and wax.

Grenache Blancs can display our wine’s orchard fruit flavors. But we would expect more body and rich bread notes from a Grenache Blanc. It has to go too.

Aligoté makes light-bodied whites with apple and herb notes. While this sounds right, our wine is missing that grape’s high levels of searing acidity.

Müller-Thurgaus can be light-bodied with moderate levels of acidity and plenty of mineral notes. Unfortunately, our wine is missing that grape’s hallmark rose, citrus and peach notes. Maybe another grape works better?

When made in a lighter style, Chardonnay can be lean with orchard fruit, herb and mineral notes. This sounds like the best match.

This wine is a Chardonnay.

Country or Region of Origin

Chardonnay is one of the world’s most popular grapes. But it would be difficult to find it growing in Spain. There is some Chardonnay grown in Germany and Greece, but those countries’ vineyards are dominated by other white grapes, such as Riesling and Assyrtiko. Chardonnay is the most widely planted white variety in California, where it is often used for full-bodied whites with rich tropical fruit, cream and spice notes. This contrasts with leaner versions from France, Chardonnay’s origin, which emphasize earth, mineral and herb notes. French Chardonnay sounds closest to the mark.

This Chardonnay is from France.

Appellation

We know that our Chardonnay is from France, so we can eliminate Spain’s Galicia, Germany’s Nahe, Greece’s Samos and California’s South Coast. This leaves us with two French appellations: Bordeaux and Chablis. Though better known for its reds, Bordeaux does produce a significant amount of white wine, the majority of it made from Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon; Chardonnay doesn’t have much of a presence there. Farther east, Chardonnay is the primary grape used in Burgundy’s Chablis appellation.

This Chardonnay is from Chablis.

Age

Our Chardonnay isn’t showing any signs of significant age, such as dried fruit notes, which means that we can look at Burgundy’s most recently released vintages to figure out this wine’s age.

2019 was a dry year that produced lean and complex Chardonnays with apple and mineral notes. 2018 was very warm, leading to high grape yields and soft Chardonnays with cream, peach and floral flavors. Burgundy experienced devastating frosts in 2017, a year of ripe and fleshy Chardonnays with vibrant structures, stone fruit flavors and spicy accents. Frost reduced yields in 2016 as well, and that vintage’s Chardonnays are rich and creamy with peach and spice notes. 2019’s Chardonnays are the best match here.

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

Wine

This is the Louis Michel & Fils Chablis Vaudésir 2019, which scored 92 points in the March 31, 2022, issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $90, and 130 cases were imported. For more on white Burgundy, read senior editor Bruce Sanderson’s tasting report, "Balancing Act," in the Sept. 30, 2021, issue.

—Collin Dreizen, assistant editor