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Tasting Note

Posted August 11, 2017 Beautifully aromatic, with slate-tinged minerality, this creamy white is fresh and focused, offering vibrant acidity and flavors of ripe yellow plum, nectarine, star anise, honey and lemon curd. Hard to stop sipping, echoing spice and mineral details on the lasting finish.

And the answer is...


Varietal

This is clearly an aromatic wine, with good structure and a lot of flavor components to go off of. Let's dive in …

Let's start with Sauvignon Blanc. The versions from New Zealand have soared in popularity since the first plantings there in the 1970s. But historically, this grape is best known for the zippy whites of the Loire Valley and as an important component of white Bordeaux blends. When made in a warmer climate, Sauvignon Blanc tends to lean toward tropical fruit flavors. However, it also expresses "green" flavors, such as lime, fresh-cut grass and even green bell pepper, no matter where it comes from. These are absent from our wine, leading us to the conclusion that it is not Sauvignon Blanc.

While many think Pinot Grigio is an Italian grape, its origins are actually in France, where it is called Pinot Gris. In recent years, it has gained traction in New World regions such as Australia, Chile and parts of the United States. The Italian wines from this grape tend to be light, refreshing and easy-drinking. Generally speaking, Pinot Grigio displays more citrus, and orchard fruits like apple and pear. Our wine's flavor profile is riper, with plum and nectarine notes, so this is probably not our best match.

Best known for being the sole variety in Rhône's Condrieu wines, Viognier has also had good results in the New World, notably in California and Australia. These wines are famously aromatic, with floral and stone fruit notes. They also have a creamy, almost viscous character and good minerality. It's a close call: Our wine seems to have a lot in common with this grape, but we aren't finding Viognier's typical floral notes. Additionally, this grape tends to be lower in acidity than what our wine suggests. Let's compare a couple more grapes.

While it may not be the most familiar grape, Gewürztraminer is actually grown in almost every major wine-producing country in the world. This grape expresses itself best in cooler climates and—like Viognier—is also very aromatic. Three important markers for recognizing Gewürztraminer are lychee flavors, aromas of roses and relatively low acidity, as the grape ripens easily and develops naturally high levels of sugar. Our wine has "vibrant acidity" and more stone fruit flavors, so let's pass on Gewürztraminer.

Although Riesling is grown in several countries throughout the world, it finds the most success in cool-climate areas. Wines made from this grape are known for their aromatics, high acidity and lush fruit flavors, which in certain regions include stone and citrus fruits. With some age, the wines develop honey notes and a creamier texture. Our wine is aromatic, with stone fruit and honey flavors, and has good acidity. Sounds like a match!

This wine is a Riesling.

Country

Riesling is grown in all of our country options, so there is no easy one to cross off the list.

In Germany, dry Rieslings have tart acidity, low alcohol and generally lack the creaminess we have here. Italian Rieslings mainly come from Friuli-Venezia Giulia; they tend to be crisp, easy-drinking sippers that don't match the complexity of our wine. In California, where Chardonnay reigns, Riesling is on the rise, making wines with tropical fruit notes, which is not what we have in our note.

Riesling has found success in Australia's cool-climate Clare and Eden Valleys, where it makes high-quality wines with notes of citrus and honeysuckle. We have these characteristics in our note, but also alongside spice, which is generally not as prominent in Australian Rieslings. Spiciness, alongside intense minerality, is found in Rieslings from France, however, notably Alsace. These wines also show high acidity, stone fruit flavors and a creaminess that comes with age. This sounds the most like our wine.

This Riesling is from France.

Age

Thanks in part to the variety's naturally high acidity, Riesling is a great wine to keep in the cellar for several years. As they age, the wines develop honeyed notes and baked or dried fruit. Our wine has a note of honey, but is still "fresh and focused," which means it probably has some age, but no more than five years.

This wine is five years old, coming from the 2012 vintage.

Appellation

We know that our mystery wine is a Riesling from France, so we can eliminate Australia's Clare Valley, California's Sonoma Coast, Italy's Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Germany's Mosel. We are now left with Savoie and Alsace. The cool-climate, Alpine Savoie is known for its crisp whites made from the Jacquère and Altesse grapes.

On the other hand, Alsace is famous for its long-lived, high-quality Rieslings. The best versions are rich and creamy, with complex flavors of stone fruit and honey, great acidity, minerality and some spice. This is a safe bet.

This Riesling is from Alsace.

Wine

This wine is the Josmeyer Riesling Alsace Grand Cru Brand 2012. It scored 93 points in Wine Spectator's October 15, 2016 issue, and retails for $72. To learn more about Alsatian wines, read Alison Napjus' latest tasting report, "Taking it Easy," in the November 15, 2016 issue.

—Cassia Schifter, assistant tasting coordinator

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