What Am I Tasting?

This firm and intense red has cherry, iron, earth and herb notes ... Play the game!

September 02, 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: This linear, almost racy red is bisected by a beam of cherry, strawberry and currant, with iron, earth and eucalyptus playing supporting roles. Firms up as it builds to the long, expansive finish, yet its lasting impression is ripe fruit. Complex and intense.

And the answer is...


Variety

This complex red has red fruit, iron, earth and herb notes supported by racy acidity and firm tannins. Let’s figure out what it is!

We can begin by eliminating Gamay, which makes lighter-bodied red wines with floral details and low levels of tannins.

País-based wines can show cherry, herb and earth notes with higher levels of tannins. However, these reds tend to have lower levels of acidity. Let’s move on!

While Pinot Noirs can be racy and red-fruited with earthy accents, these reds are generally lighter-bodied with lower levels of tannins than our firm and expansive wine. Pinot Noir has to go too.

Cabernet Franc can make reds with strawberry, mineral and herb notes, which sounds right for our wine. But our red is missing some of Cabernet Franc’s hallmark notes, like green bell pepper and chile pepper. Maybe another grape works better?

Sangioveses tend to have high levels of tannins and acidity, along with rich notes of red fruit, iron, earth and herbs. This sounds like what we’re looking for!

This wine is a Sangiovese.

Country or Region of Origin

Sangiovese doesn’t grow widely around the world, and it would be difficult to find plantings in Germany or Oregon. There is some Sangiovese grown in Chile, but the grape is not nearly as significant there as other red varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère. California is one of Sangiovese’s most significant regions; versions here tend to be riper with jammy dark fruit notes and accents of chocolate, mocha, anise and toasty oak. This contrasts with styles from Italy, Sangiovese’s origin, which often display earthy, herbal and minerally notes. Italian Sangiovese is closest to the mark.

This Sangiovese is from Italy.

Appellation

We know that our Sangiovese is from Italy, so we can eliminate Oregon’s Chehalem Mountains, Chile’s Maipo, California’s Paso Robles and Germany’s Württemberg. This leaves us with two Italian appellations: Brunello di Montalcino and Etna. Etna is one of Sicily’s most important appellations and is well-known for making reds from the Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio grapes. Farther north in Tuscany, Brunello di Montalcino is a world-famous appellation celebrated for its complex reds made from Sangiovese. We have a winner!

This Sangiovese is from Brunello di Montalcino.

Age

With high levels of acidity and tannins, Brunellos are well-known for their ageability. Before these wines are even released, producers must age them for a minimum of 24 months in barrel and 6 months in bottle. As our Sangiovese isn’t showing any significant signs of age, such as dried fruit, leather or nut notes, let’s take a look at the most recent Brunello vintages to figure out its age.

Spring and summer were warm and dry in Montalcino in 2017, producing balanced wines with high levels of acidity and tannins, along with red fruit, mineral, herb and earth notes. 2016 had a textbook growing season with ideal weather in September, leading to harmonious and savory reds with floral, licorice and mushroom notes. 2015’s summer was warm, yet not too hot or dry, and that year’s Brunellos are dense and supple with tobacco, leather and spice notes. Of these vintages, 2017 sounds like the best pick.

This Sangiovese is from the 2017 vintage, making it five years old.

Wine

This is the Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino Paesaggio Inatteso 2017, which scored 95 points in the June 30, 2022, issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $75, and 300 cases were made. For more on Brunello di Montalcino, read senior editor Bruce Sanderson’s tasting report, "Rising to the Challenge," in the June 30, 2022, issue.

—Collin Dreizen, assistant editor