If you read a lot of wine tasting notes, you’ve probably come across the wine descriptors ‘minerally’ or “minerality’. While no strict definition of minerality or minerally exist, generally reviewers use them interchangeably to describe flavours or aromas that remind them of wet stones, slate, flint, or the taste of the crunchy sea salt or oysters.
Typically minerally wines come from grapes grown in limestone, schist and granite soils in cooler climates. They have a marked acidity and are not overly fruity.
Minerality is a fairly recent wine descriptor
You may be surprised to learn that the use of these descriptors is fairly recent. Steven Spurrier, the respected British wine writer, told wine critic Jamie Goode that minerality “didn’t exist as a wine descriptor until the mid 1980s: “I think because most French vineyards were overproducing, chaptalizing, and doing all those things – which means that minerality, which comes from the soil and nothing else, was not looked for and not present.” (Wine Science: Minerality in Wine by Jamie Goode, The Somm Journal, 12 October 2015)
But whether perceived minerality in wine does indeed come from the soil is a hotly debated subject. As the Wine Spectator’s Harvey Steiman recently explained, “Scientists have demonstrated that these flavours can’t come directly from the rocks in a vineyard. There’s no mechanism for the elements to get through the plant from the soil to the grapes, but vineyards with lots of rocks often produce wines in which we find minerality when we taste them blind.” (What is Minerality, Exactly? by Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator, 1 April 3015)
Like Steiman, Goode questions the scientific findings, noting that many vignerons believe that minerality in wine is the result of mineral ions in the soil, which through water find their way into the grapes and affect their flavour: “The anecdotal evidence suggesting that some terroirs impart a mineral character to their wines is pretty strong… [Read More]