What Am I Tasting?

This racy red has blackberry, white pepper and floral notes ... Play the game!

November 23, 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: High-pitched and racy, evoking floral, blackberry and white pepper flavors. Pure, elegant and balanced, leaving a chalky feel on the finish.

And the answer is...


Our mystery red is elegant and high-pitched with racy acidity and floral, blackberry, pepper and mineral notes. What could it be?

We can begin by eliminating Pinotage, which makes rich reds with higher levels of tannins and low levels of acidity, along with mint and meat accents.

Syrah can show our wine’s pronounced acidity, as well as its blackberry and pepper notes. However, we would expect more body and higher levels of tannins from a Syrah. Let’s move on!

Malbecs can be medium-bodied with dark fruit flavors and spicy, minerally accents. But these reds don’t generally have our wine’s racy acidity. This doesn’t sound right either.

The Austrian grape St. Laurent makes wines with higher levels of acidity and blackberry, floral and spice notes. While this sounds right, our wine is missing St. Laurent’s hallmark accents of chocolate, leather and tobacco. We’ll have to look to another grape.

Barberas are often dark-fruited with high levels of zippy acidity and floral, minerally and peppery accents. This is closest to the mark.

This wine is a Barbera.

Country or Region of Origin

Barbera is not an international grape variety, and it would be difficult to find it growing in Austria or France. A few producers are experimenting with Barbera in South Africa, but the grape has not achieved prominence there either, especially compared to other varieties like Pinotage and Syrah. California is one of Barbera’s main regions outside of Italy, where the grape originates; Golden State versions tend to be dark and concentrated with juicy fruit and rich accents of mocha, cocoa, black tea, licorice and toasty oak. This contrasts with leaner and racier versions from Italy, which often have floral, minerally and peppery accents. Italian Barbera sounds like the best match here.

This Barbera is from Italy.


We know that our Barbera comes from Italy, so we can eliminate South Africa’s Robertson, California’s Santa Barbara, France’s Savoie and Austria’s Steiermark. This leaves us with two Italian appellations: Alba and Barbaresco. Located in Northern Italy’s wider Piedmont region, Barbaresco is an appellation known for its rich, complex and cellar-worthy reds made exclusively from the Nebbiolo grape. Also in Piedmont, Alba is a prime appellation for Barbera, making some of the variety’s most celebrated bottlings. We have a clear choice.

This Barbera is from Alba.


Our Barbera isn’t showing any significant signs of age, such as dried fruit notes. Bearing in mind that Alba’s winemakers must age their Barberas for at least one year in barrel and bottle, let’s look at Piedmont’s most recent vintages to figure out our red’s age.

Heavy rain and hailstorms made 2019 a challenging year for winemakers, and led to racy Barberas with dark berry, floral, mineral and pepper notes. There was plenty of rain throughout 2018’s spring and summer in Piedmont, and that year’s Barberas are vibrant with earth and chocolate accents. Spring rains led into a dry and hot summer in 2017, and that vintage’s Barbers are more luscious with ripe dark fruit, iron and graphite notes. 2019’s Barberas seem the most like our wine.

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


This is the Pira Chiara Boschis Barbera d’Alba Superiore 2019, which scored 91 points in the Feb. 28, 2022, issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $42, and 290 cases were made. For more on Piedmont’s reds, read senior editor Bruce Sanderson’s tasting report, "Fortune Favors Barolo," in the April 30, 2022, issue.

—Collin Dreizen, associate editor