A friend asked me to address minerality in wine. While I understood the concept at a high level, I didn’t know enough to fill up an entire blog article. So I did some research, and here’s what I found.
For starters, the term “minerality” is very popular but very difficult to define. According to Jeff Cox of Wine News, “In deciding a case involving pornography in 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously wrote in his short concurrence that ‘hard-core pornography’ was difficult to define, but that ‘I know it when I see it.’ Similarly, minerality in a wine is difficult to define, yet most of us seem to recognize it when we taste it.”
We know that some minerals are naturally present in wines: sulfur, magnesium, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, copper and zinc. But when people talk about minerality in wine, they use terms such as chalk, slate, wet rocks, pet rocks (no, I just made that one up), flint and limestone.
Sometimes there’s something in the wine, a certain undefinable taste on the palate…old, musty; perhaps even an aromatic sensation rather than a taste…like an imposing stone cathedral or dank, mysterious cave. The more I read, the more I likened “minerality” to this elusive taste category.
The concept of terroir (the environment where the vineyards are grown) indicates that a soil’s composition, including the minerals, contributes greatly to the flavors of wine. For the time being, though, the science behind how any of this happens is very limited. Is it the deep roots that absorb the minerals or the shallow roots? Do microorganisms break up minerals differently, depending on how hungry they are? Does the plant itself absorb anything? Does moldiness in the winery play a role?
Nobody knows for sure. For now, there are many well-reasoned theories eagerly awaiting research funding. I’m planning to keep an eye on the minerality space, because I think it will be rich with new discoveries.
My personal philosophy is that wine is a very individualized experience, with no right or wrong tastes. So, if there is some vaguely unidentifiable “je ne sais quoi” in your wine, neither fruity nor flowery, perhaps it is minerality you are experiencing. Trust your senses and enjoy the discovery!
As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!
Betty Kaufman, WineShop At Home
Betty, thank you very much for researching this for me! As we discussed, I love minerally-tasting wines. They seem somehow – um, healthy – if that makes any sense. It almost feels like I am getting my essential amino acids and other good stuff while I sip my favorite beverage! I like the fact that it is hard to know exactly how the mineral taste gets into the wine. A little bit of mystery is a delightful virtue in a wine!
Very well said. I completely agree. There is something so wholesome about those minerally tastes. Thanks for your comments!
Actually it’s my first time to heard and read about these Minerality in Wine. Maybe it’s define by how people usually define or judge it. It’s all in the wine tasting caliber.
I agree with you, especially without a clear-cut definition of minerality, there’s a lot of room for subjectivity. And that’s okay 🙂
Had never heard of this, but it is very interesting! I am going to pay more attention in the future and see if I can detect any of that mysterious “minerality” going on! That is great that you did the research, and intriguing that it is a subject inviting further exploration and definition. I trust you will write more blogs about this as the mystery begins to be revealed!
Donna, thank you as always for your great comments. I’m definitely going to keep my eyes on this space. I think there will be a lot of good information coming out over the next few years.