What Am I Tasting?

This ripe red has velvety tannins and generous notes of red fruit and spice ... Play the game

January 20, 2023

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: Ripe, plush and generous, showing strawberry preserves, cherry pie filling and maraschino cherry at the core, with hints of clove, toasted cumin and five-spice powder lingering on the finish. Reveals plump, velvety tannins.

And the answer is...


Our ripe and plush red shows rich red fruit, spice and herb notes, with a moderate level of plump, velvety tannins. Let’s figure out what it is!

We can start by eliminating Gamay, a grape that tends to make light-bodied reds with blue fruit and floral notes and low levels of tannins.

Carmenères can be medium-bodied with moderate levels of tannins and red fruit notes. This sounds right, except we are missing that grape’s hallmark pepper and chile notes. Let’s move on!

Schiava (aka Trollinger) can make wines with plenty of rich red fruit notes. However, these wines also tend to be lighter-bodied with low levels of tannins. Maybe another grape works better?

Red fruit, spice and herb notes are all common for Xinomavro. The problem is that our wine is missing Xinomavro’s significantly high levels of gripping, robust tannins. Xinomavro has to go too!

Grenaches often have moderate levels of body and supple tannins, with a rich array of red fruit, spice and herb notes. This sounds like what we’re looking for!

This wine is a Grenache.

Country or Region of Origin

Grenache grows around the world and is often used in blends with other grapes, like Syrah and Mourvèdre (aka Mataro). But it would be difficult to find any Grenache-based wines in Germany or Greece, where other grapes take the spotlight. There are Grenache vines in Chile, but the grape hasn’t achieved prominence there either. France is one of Grenache’s footholds; the grape is used widely throughout the country’s southern reaches to make more restrained versions with leaner fruit notes and more minerality. This contrasts with styles from Australia, which tend to have riper body, plumper tannins and richer fruit flavors. Australia sounds like the right choice here.

This Grenache is from Australia.


We know that our Grenache is from Australia, so we can eliminate Greece’s Kefalonia, France’s Loire Valley, Chile’s Maipo Valley and Germany’s Nahe. This leaves us with two Australian appellations: McLaren Vale and Tasmania. The island of Tasmania is predominantly known for its still and sparkling wines made from grapes like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir; Grenache is not a widely grown grape there. Farther north, Grenache is one of the leading grapes grown in McLaren Vale, along with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvèdre. We’ve found a match!

This Grenache is from McLaren Vale.


Our Grenache isn’t showing any signs of age, like dried fruit, mushroom or leather notes. Let’s look at Australia’s most recently released vintages to figure out this red’s age. A wet winter meant higher yields in 2021, and that year’s Grenaches are rich and red-fruited with supple tannins and spicy, herbal accents. 2020 was the third year in a row with reduced yields, and its Grenaches are juicy with savory details like butterscotch, bread and cocoa. 2019 was a hot and dry year, producing a crop of Grenaches with firmer tannins and tea, earth and floral notes. There was a long growing season in 2018, and that vintage’s Grenaches tend to show pepper, wood and tea notes. 2021’s reds sound closest to the mark.

This Grenache is from the 2021 vintage, making it two years old.


This is the Thistledown Grenache McLaren Vale Sands of Time Blewitt Springs Old Vine Single Vineyard 2021, which scored 92 points in the Dec. 31, 2022, issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $75, and 200 cases were made. For more on Australia’s wines, read senior editor MaryAnn Worobiec’s tasting report, "Fresh Takes ," in the Dec. 31, 2022, issue.

—Collin Dreizen, associate editor