What exactly does “minerality” mean in relation to wine? Are there stones in my chardonnay?
No stones, so don’t worry. The expression “minerality” has been used with accelerating frequency recently by wine critics (and wine lovers in general) to describe a range of non-fruity aromas or tastes. Often more specific phrases will be trotted out by people such as me, such as chalky, flinty, stony, wet stone, graphite, saline or slate. While I use the word in my testimonials, I am often thinking of the odor of a rock quarry or the sour tang of sea water sprayed from rocks on shore, occasionally even the smell of pencil shavings. (Wine critics have nothing if not colorful imaginations.) It’s also a certain tingle and tension on the tongue, something which does not look entirely attributable to the tartness of acidity.
Many people who describe wine as minerally would, I am sure, be surprised to learn that they’re not actually literally sensing decomposed rock matter that’s been hauled from vine roots around the blossoms. Vine roots simply cannot dissolve and absorb minerals from rocks — regardless of what the winemaker on your vineyard tour attempts to insist. That is not how plant biology works. As I wrote in a , the mineral content in wine is below the threshold of human taste and odor. Consider it: If you’re tasting real minerals in wine, then you would taste them at the grapes, which can be one step closer to the soil, yet nobody describes grapes as minerally.
These rugged sensations are more likely produced by a blend of wine acids and sulphur-bearing organic chemicals created by yeast during fermentation. That is my theory, and I am sticking with it until science comes up with a better response.
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