What Am I Tasting?

This silky red has charming strawberry, cherry, earth and spice notes ... Play the game!

October 28, 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 silky, charming red, whose strawberry and cherry flavors are graced with earth and sweet spice accents. There is finesse here, but also a firm line of tannins for underlying support. A beacon of fresh fruit returns on the finish.

And the answer is...


Our silky red has red fruit, earth and spice notes with finesse and firm, underlying tannins. Let’s figure out what it is!

We can start by eliminating Touriga Nacional, a grape that makes rich, full-bodied reds with blue fruit notes and notably high levels of plush tannins. This doesn’t sound like our wine.

While Barberas can show cherry and spice notes, we are missing that grape’s incredibly high levels of acidity. Let’s move on.

Our wine’s silky texture and red fruit, earth and spice notes sound right for Gamay. However, our red’s firm line of tannins would be unusual for a Gamay. Maybe another grape works better?

Carignans can be medium-bodied wines with moderate levels of tannins and acidity, along with red fruit, earth and sweet spice notes. This sounds right, except that our wine is missing Carignan’s distinctive game and meat notes. Carignan has to go too!

Pinot Noirs can be silky, medium-bodied reds with finesse, moderate levels of tannins and notes of red fruit, earth and spice. This sounds closest to the mark.

This wine is a Pinot Noir.

Country or Region of Origin

Though Pinot Noir can be a tricky grape to grow, it does have a strong international presence. With that said, there aren’t many Pinot Noir plantings in Portugal. Spain grows a small amount Pinot Noir, but much of it is slated for sparkling wines. Pinot Noir has become increasingly popular in Italy, yet it’s still not nearly as prominent as local varieties like Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. California is one of Pinot Noir’s New World footholds and is well-known for its riper versions with rich tannins and dark fruit, chocolate, coffee and vanilla notes. This contrasts with styles from France, where Pinot Noir originates, which tend to be leaner with red fruit and earth notes. France’s Pinot sounds like what we’re looking for.

This Pinot Noir is from France.


We know that our Pinot Noir is from France, so we can eliminate Italy’s Cirò, Portugal’s Douro, Spain’s Priorat and California’s Sta. Rita Hills. This leaves us with two French appellations: Beaune and Cahors. Located in Southwest France, the Cahors appellation makes structured red wines from the Malbec grape, locally known as Côt. Farther north, Beaune is a key appellation in the Burgundy region, and produces reds exclusively from Pinot Noir. It sounds like our wine must be from there.

This Pinot Noir is from Beaune.


Our Pinot Noir’s fruit notes are still fresh, and there aren’t any signs of significant age here, such as dried fruit, mushroom or leather notes. Bearing in mind that Beaune producers tend to age their Pinot Noirs for several years in oak, let’s take a look at some of Burgundy’s most recently released vintages to figure out our red’s age.

Burgundy had a fairly mild winter in 2019, leading to an impressive crop of Pinot Noirs with focused and ripe dark fruit flavors. 2018’s growing season was very hot and dry, and that year’s Pinot Noirs tend to be on the fresh side with blue fruit, floral and spice notes. There was dry weather throughout 2017, and that year’s Pinot Noirs are fresh with finesse and notes of red fruit, earth and spice. 2016’s yields were reduced by bad frost, and that vintage’s wines are pure with dark fruit, pepper and tea notes. 2017’s reds sound like the best match.

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


This is the Michel Gay & Fils Beaune Coucherias Vieilles Vignes 2017, which scored 93 points in the Nov. 15, 2021, issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $60, and 250 cases were made. For more on red Burgundy, read senior editor Bruce Sanderson’s tasting report, "In the Heights," in the May 31, 2022, issue.

—Collin Dreizen, associate editor