What Am I Tasting?

This medium-bodied white has vibrant acidity and apricot, almond and herb notes ... Play the game!

July 08, 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: Vibrant, citrusy acidity forms a mouthwatering frame for the flavors of honeyed apricot, blood orange sorbet, green almond and fleur de sel in this harmonious, medium-bodied white. Sleek and finely meshed, offering a light, chalky sensation and a hint of herb on the lasting finish.

And the answer is...


Our medium-bodied mystery wine displays vibrant, citrusy acidity with rich apricot, blood orange and almond flavors backed by minerally, herbal accents. Let’s figure out what it is!

We can begin by eliminating Gewürztraminer, which tends to make fuller-bodied whites with low levels of acidity and floral, spicy accents.

Melon Blancs can have lively acidity and mineral accents, but these whites are generally light-bodied with orchard fruit flavors. This grape has to go too.

Herb and honey notes are common for Grüner Veltliners. However, we are missing Grüner’s characteristic lemon, vegetable and pepper notes. Let’s move on.

Sauvignon Blancs can display citrusy acidity and stone fruit flavors. But these often join grassy and vegetal accents, which are missing from our wine. Plus, it would be unusual for a Sauvignon Blanc to have blood orange and almond notes. Maybe another grape works better?

Chenin Blanc generally makes whites with vibrant acidity and floral, herbal, minerally and honeyed notes. Fuller-bodied versions tend to have a core of rich stone fruit and citrus flavors. We have a match!

This wine is a Chenin Blanc.

Country or Region of Origin

While Chenin Blanc grows in countries around the world in a variety of climates, it’s not widely planted in Italy. Similarly, Germany has proven best for grapes like Riesling and Silvaner, but not Chenin. New Zealand isn’t known as a major Chenin region either, with Sauvignon Blanc being the country’s premier white variety. Chenin originates in France, where dry, sweet and sparkling versions are made; France’s dry Chenins tend to emphasize the grape’s high acidity, minerality and floral notes, rather than rich fruit flavors. Another of Chenin’s key regions is South Africa, where the grape is also known as Steen; here, producers use it to make fuller-bodied versions with rich fruit flavors and honeyed accents. This sounds closest to the mark.

This Chenin Blanc is from South Africa.


We know that our Chenin Blanc is from South Africa, so we can eliminate New Zealand’s Marlborough, Germany’s Mosel, France’s Muscadet and Italy’s Piemonte. This leaves us with two South African appellations: Plettenberg Bay and Swartland. Plettenberg Bay is a newer appellation on South Africa’s east coast, and makes plenty of white wine from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but not Chenin. Farther north, Swartland is an appellation within the wider Western Cape region, and Chenin is its leading white grape.

This Chenin Blanc is from Swartland.


Chenin Blancs can be incredibly ageable thanks to their naturally high levels of acidity, and may show dried fruit, wax and nut notes after a few years. While our mystery wine’s fruit flavors are still fresh, its almond note may indicate some age. Let’s look at South Africa’s most recently released vintages, though not too far back, to figure out our Chenin’s age.

South Africa had its smallest crop in 20 years in 2019 due to post-drought conditions and periods of warmer- and wetter-than-average weather during the growing season; the results are creamy Chenin Blancs with dried fruit, chamomile, beeswax and ginger notes. Drought was the primary weather factor in 2018, significantly lowering South Africa’s yields, and that year’s Chenins are lively with ripe citrus, stone fruit, honey, mineral and herb notes. 2017 was also a drought year with reduced yields, leading to ripe Chenins with pastry and orchard fruit notes. 2016 was hot and dry too, and its Chenins display floral, hazelnut and tropical fruit flavors. 2018’s Chenins sound like the best match here.

This Chenin Blanc is from 2018, making it four years old.


This is the A.A. Badenhorst Family Steen Swartland Piet Bok Se Bos 2018, which scored 92 points in the July 31, 2021, issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $60, and 200 cases were made. For more on South African wine, read senior editor Alison Napjus’ tasting report, "Charting Their Own Course," in the July 31, 2021, issue.

April Louis, assistant tasting coordinator