What Am I Tasting?

This racy white wine has steely acidity and green fruit, herb and saline notes ... Play the game!

May 12, 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: Racy and bright, with chewy green plum and thyme shot through with lemon-edged acidity and a laser beam of saline. Bristling with steely acidity and minerals, this is a linear, focused wine that's still tightly coiled and compact.

And the answer is...


Our bright and racy mystery white has green plum, herb, citrus and mineral notes. Let’s figure out what it is!

We can begin by eliminating Gewürztraminer, which tends to make floral white wines with lower levels of acidity and prominent lychee notes.

A Chardonnay could show our wine’s lemon notes. But laser-like salinity and green plum and thyme flavors would be unusual for that grape. We’ll have to look elsewhere.

While plum and citrus notes are common for Grenache Blanc, we would expect more body and lower levels of acidity from that variety. Maybe another grape works better?

Chenin Blancs often have higher levels of steely acidity, sometimes mixed with mineral flavors. This sounds right, except our wine is lacking Chenin Blanc’s hallmark orchard fruit, floral, honey and pastry elements. This grape has to go too.

Sauvignon Blancs are well-known for their high levels of acidity and focused notes of green fruit, citrus, herbs and minerals. This sounds closest to the mark.

This wine is a Sauvignon Blanc.

Country or Region of Origin

While Sauvignon Blanc grows in cooler-climate regions around the world, not much grows in Germany. Sauvignon Blanc grows in Spain, predominantly in the country’s northern reaches, but much of this crop is slated for blends with grapes like Verdejo and Chardonnay. Sauvignon Blanc has a significant foothold in Italy, but more often in blends with other grapes. And Italian Sauvignon Blanc tends to feature a smoky, flinty note missing from our wine. California is one of Sauvignon Blanc’s main regions, and producers there tend to make a riper, plusher style with tropical fruit and cream notes. This contrasts with versions from France, which tend to be more linear with high levels of steely acidity and green fruit, citrus and mineral notes. France’s Sauvignon Blanc sounds closer to the mark.

This Sauvignon Blanc is from France.


We know that our Sauvignon Blanc is from France, so we can eliminate California’s Mendocino, Germany’s Mosel, Spain’s Toro and Italy’s Umbria. This leaves us with two French options: Alsace and Sancerre. Alsace is celebrated for its white wines made from a range of grapes, including Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Riesling, but not Sauvignon Blanc. Farther east in the Loire Valley, Sauvignon Blanc is the only white grape used in the Sancerre appellation. We have a clear choice.

This Sauvignon Blanc is from Sancerre.


Our Sauvignon Blanc’s fruit notes are still fresh, and it isn’t showing any signs of significant aging, such as spice or oak notes. Let’s take a look at the Loire Valley’s most recent vintages to figure out this wine’s age.

As in much of France, the weather was challenging in the Loire Valley in 2021; the resulting Sancerres are lean and steely with high levels of acidity and green fruit, citrus and mineral notes. The Loire Valley had a good growing season in 2020 and a wet, late winter, and that year’s whites are concentrated with melon, peach and apricot flavors. The Loire Valley’s vines were stressed by summer heat in 2019, leading to a group of rich Sancerres with peach and floral notes. In 2018, the Loire Valley had one of its largest crops of the decade, and the vintage’s Sancerres were savory with cream accents. 2021’s Sancerres sound like the best match.

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


This is the Jean-Paul Picard Sancerre Le Chemin de Marloup 2021, which scored 91 points in the Dec. 15, 2022, issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $30, and 5,000 cases were made. For more on Sancerre, read senior editor Kristen Bieler’s tasting report, "Why Americans Love Sancerre," in the Dec. 15, 2022, issue.

—Collin Dreizen, associate editor