The taste and smell of rocks

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Ben M a n d l e r
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The taste and smell of rocks

#1 Post by Ben M a n d l e r » February 16th, 2019, 12:02 pm

I've always been fascinated by rock descriptors in tasting notes. As a geologist I've probably licked and smelled more rocks than I should admit. But for those people who don't spend most of their time chewing on clay and hiking across lava flows, I am wondering: how many distinct rock-like descriptors have you used or noticed in wines?

A young basalt lava flow baking in the mid-August sun does have a distinctive smell to it, but I have never noticeably smelled that in wines, volcanic soils or not. I'd describe tannins as chalky but I don't think I've ever had a wine that I would describe as tasting or smelling like limestone - limestone dust at a quarry for example doesn't smell the same as a piece of limestone you find at an outcrop somewhere, which is more likely to have a more light petrichor-like scent (as many rocks you might randomly come across do). So when I hear "crushed limestone" I'm not quite sure what people mean - any takers?

I think the term "wet rocks" is an interesting descriptor because wet rocks smell like lots of things. I was with some students out in the Hudson River Valley looking at some mélange rocks right in the river. The wet rocks in the shade were what I would consider the definition of minerality; those in the sun were too warm. So to me, "wet rocks" has for the most part been synonymous with (wet rocks in a river on a cold day). Your experience may differ, and I'd be interested to hear how.

Wet clay can be earthy, sulfurous, or vegetal, since the scent and taste come generally from what's between the clays rather than the clays themselves. But I haven't seen many clay-related descriptors.

Hit a quartzite hard enough with a hammer and you'll smell smoke. Closest I'll ever come to gunflint.

I know I'm way down in the weeds here...or deeper...but curious to hear how people think about rock characters in wine and what they mean to them.
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#2 Post by Doug Schulman » February 16th, 2019, 12:44 pm

You're probably one of very few people who could correctly use these terms. I try to stick to broader use of "minerality", maybe modified by stony, flinty, or chalky. For chalky, I mean the dust from what was used on old style chalk boards. That's a very distinctive smell that I sometimes get from wines. I think a lot of the more specific or esoteric versions are mental associations that people have made, often based more on common usage (or who knows what) than the real smells of certain types of rocks. I like that you mention petrichor. That's tied in with what I sometimes call minerality.
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#3 Post by David Glasser » February 16th, 2019, 12:46 pm

I rarely get more specific than minerally or stoney. But I don’t get too specific about flowers or fruits either so I’m probably not much help here.

Interesting that you mention petrichor. Despite the word having roots in the Greek for stone, it evokes earthy/smoky/vaguely organic rather than rocky/minerally associations when I read it or smell it. Apparently it derives from plant-based oils and geosmin, a byproduct of soil-based bacterial metabolism rather than rocks or minerals.

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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#4 Post by Markus S » February 16th, 2019, 2:35 pm

About time we got a real geologist here to help us out with that oft-used and misused term, "minerality" and everything related to it.
I've used different rock terms before, mostly: chalk, limestone, slate, shale, tufa, basalt, calcium. Sometimes they help define a feel more than an actual taste, almost like the rock having a living quality inherent in it.
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#5 Post by ky1em!ttskus » February 16th, 2019, 2:54 pm

I’ve called wines “salty.” I’ve also used the ever-nebulous “minerality.” And, for sure, I’ve said something rock-related like “wet stone.”

But... I’ve been right every time I’ve used these terms. [berserker.gif]

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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#6 Post by Ian H » February 16th, 2019, 3:04 pm

I've used wet rock, gravel and chalky. I usually notice wet rock or gravel more in the nose as opposed to the palate. Chalky to me has been more of a textural element.
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#7 Post by Mattstolz » February 16th, 2019, 4:20 pm

I love this post. I would be interested to hear wines that you think have specific mineral type qualities that you relate to your time in the field

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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#8 Post by Victor Hong » February 17th, 2019, 5:57 am

Wet rocks sound much better than sweaty rocks.
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#9 Post by Karl K » February 17th, 2019, 6:34 am

Good job, Kyle!
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#10 Post by Charlie Carnes » February 17th, 2019, 7:18 am

Ben M a n d l e r wrote:
February 16th, 2019, 12:02 pm
I've always been fascinated by rock descriptors in tasting notes. As a geologist I've probably licked and smelled more rocks than I should admit. But for those people who don't spend most of their time chewing on clay and hiking across lava flows, I am wondering: how many distinct rock-like descriptors have you used or noticed in wines?

A young basalt lava flow baking in the mid-August sun does have a distinctive smell to it, but I have never noticeably smelled that in wines, volcanic soils or not. I'd describe tannins as chalky but I don't think I've ever had a wine that I would describe as tasting or smelling like limestone - limestone dust at a quarry for example doesn't smell the same as a piece of limestone you find at an outcrop somewhere, which is more likely to have a more light petrichor-like scent (as many rocks you might randomly come across do). So when I hear "crushed limestone" I'm not quite sure what people mean - any takers?

I think the term "wet rocks" is an interesting descriptor because wet rocks smell like lots of things. I was with some students out in the Hudson River Valley looking at some mélange rocks right in the river. The wet rocks in the shade were what I would consider the definition of minerality; those in the sun were too warm. So to me, "wet rocks" has for the most part been synonymous with (wet rocks in a river on a cold day). Your experience may differ, and I'd be interested to hear how.

Wet clay can be earthy, sulfurous, or vegetal, since the scent and taste come generally from what's between the clays rather than the clays themselves. But I haven't seen many clay-related descriptors.

Hit a quartzite hard enough with a hammer and you'll smell smoke. Closest I'll ever come to gunflint.

I know I'm way down in the weeds here...or deeper...but curious to hear how people think about rock characters in wine and what they mean to them.
For me, I generally use mineral/rocks/clay dust, etc., to describe perceptions. We have all experienced petrichor in many forms. Wether its rain on dry asphalt, or freshly watered soil, or even dew drying in a lively forest. It is all in the mind's eye, but the perceptions are real. As for clay, I use it in many descriptors: clay dust, dusty clay road, wet clay, clay soil. I am lucky enough to be a clay miner. I am surrounded by it every day. We dig it wet, deal with it when it gets too dry, blend it with other materials, etc. I even prospect. There is a very distinct aroma when steel auger bits heat up boring through hard clay! I have also been sand mining and processing for years. There are so many earth and soil perceptions that arise out of this as well. Maybe one day I'll be able to use fulgurite perceptions as a descriptor in a wine I drink, probably for a Riesling.

I imagine most of the farmers here have experienced many distinct soil/rock/clay perceptions that come from their vineyards and farms.
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#11 Post by Charlie Carnes » February 17th, 2019, 7:19 am

ky1em!ttskus wrote:
February 16th, 2019, 2:54 pm


But... I’ve been right every time I’ve used these terms. [berserker.gif]
Hear! Hear!
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#12 Post by Robert.A.Jr. » February 17th, 2019, 7:38 am

Charlie Carnes wrote:
February 17th, 2019, 7:18 am
Ben M a n d l e r wrote:
February 16th, 2019, 12:02 pm
I've always been fascinated by rock descriptors in tasting notes. As a geologist I've probably licked and smelled more rocks than I should admit. But for those people who don't spend most of their time chewing on clay and hiking across lava flows, I am wondering: how many distinct rock-like descriptors have you used or noticed in wines?

A young basalt lava flow baking in the mid-August sun does have a distinctive smell to it, but I have never noticeably smelled that in wines, volcanic soils or not. I'd describe tannins as chalky but I don't think I've ever had a wine that I would describe as tasting or smelling like limestone - limestone dust at a quarry for example doesn't smell the same as a piece of limestone you find at an outcrop somewhere, which is more likely to have a more light petrichor-like scent (as many rocks you might randomly come across do). So when I hear "crushed limestone" I'm not quite sure what people mean - any takers?

I think the term "wet rocks" is an interesting descriptor because wet rocks smell like lots of things. I was with some students out in the Hudson River Valley looking at some mélange rocks right in the river. The wet rocks in the shade were what I would consider the definition of minerality; those in the sun were too warm. So to me, "wet rocks" has for the most part been synonymous with (wet rocks in a river on a cold day). Your experience may differ, and I'd be interested to hear how.

Wet clay can be earthy, sulfurous, or vegetal, since the scent and taste come generally from what's between the clays rather than the clays themselves. But I haven't seen many clay-related descriptors.

Hit a quartzite hard enough with a hammer and you'll smell smoke. Closest I'll ever come to gunflint.

I know I'm way down in the weeds here...or deeper...but curious to hear how people think about rock characters in wine and what they mean to them.
For me, I generally use mineral/rocks/clay dust, etc., to describe perceptions. We have all experienced petrichor in many forms. Wether its rain on dry asphalt, or freshly watered soil, or even dew drying in a lively forest. It is all in the mind's eye, but the perceptions are real. As for clay, I use it in many descriptors: clay dust, dusty clay road, wet clay, clay soil. I am lucky enough to be a clay miner. I am surrounded by it every day. We dig it wet, deal with it when it gets too dry, blend it with other materials, etc. I even prospect. There is a very distinct aroma when steel auger bits heat up boring through hard clay! I have also been sand mining and processing for years. There are so many earth and soil perceptions that arise out of this as well. Maybe one day I'll be able to use fulgurite perceptions as a descriptor in a wine I drink, probably for a Riesling.

I imagine most of the farmers here have experienced many distinct soil/rock/clay perceptions that come from their vineyards and farms.
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#13 Post by Paul Miller » February 17th, 2019, 8:10 am

Great and interesting OP.

Wasn’t there another thread awhile back about if a particular soil imparted that characteristic into the wine? For example, if grown in soil containing limestone, does that impart a limestone taste into the wine, and if so, how/why?

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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#14 Post by Christopher Barnes » February 17th, 2019, 9:01 am

Hello everyone. Minerality in wine is a relatively new area of focus. Enartis (Vinquiry) did a seminar in 2018 on this topic and there is an overview of the seminar found here: viewtopic.php?t=152043 (Note, this is a relatively technical thread)

A key point in the summary is that the relationship between the soil and minerality in wine is "fuzzy".

It is not as simple as "grow grapes in rocks, get rock flavor in the wine". The vines do not care about making wine, they only care about reproduction; thus, the vines to not take up flavors in their roots and put them into the grapes. The vines are interested in nutrients and those nutrients are used in a variety of ways; not just for fruit development. Part of the mystery of wine making is the incredible interactions between the raw ingredients in the fruit and the yeast to make the flavors present in wine. Not many components in grapes actually make it through fermentation unscathed by the fermentation process which is why tasting grapes rarely reflects the final wine character. Therefore, I would say that the winemaking process is much more influential (the only influence?) on minerality in the final wine than the soil/terroir of the vineyard. For example, Enartis' research has indicated that lower Ph wines made in a reductive style (less oxygen) with a closure that does not allow for oxygen transmission will produce more minerality in the wine.
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#15 Post by Ben M a n d l e r » February 17th, 2019, 11:47 am

Doug Schulman wrote:
February 16th, 2019, 12:44 pm
For chalky, I mean the dust from what was used on old style chalk boards. That's a very distinctive smell that I sometimes get from wines. I think a lot of the more specific or esoteric versions are mental associations that people have made, often based more on common usage (or who knows what) than the real smells of certain types of rocks. I like that you mention petrichor. That's tied in with what I sometimes call minerality.
Oh I like chalkboard as a descriptor very much. To me that has both a textural (as others have noted) and a very specific dusty-type aromatic element to it.
David Glasser wrote:
February 16th, 2019, 12:46 pm
Interesting that you mention petrichor. Despite the word having roots in the Greek for stone, it evokes earthy/smoky/vaguely organic rather than rocky/minerally associations when I read it or smell it. Apparently it derives from plant-based oils and geosmin, a byproduct of soil-based bacterial metabolism rather than rocks or minerals.
Exactly! If you smell a rock, most of the time you are smelling microbial or plant-based products (or plant-based products that have been modified by microbes) that are present in small quantities on the surface of the rock. Most clean rocks have no discernable scent at all unless you amplify it by powdering them (at which point sniffing fine rock powder might not be a good idea)
Markus S wrote:
February 16th, 2019, 2:35 pm
I've used different rock terms before, mostly: chalk, limestone, slate, shale, tufa, basalt, calcium. Sometimes they help define a feel more than an actual taste, almost like the rock having a living quality inherent in it.
Tufa is an interesting descriptor to me personally - because it forms so readily in closed-basin lakes (like Mono Lake in CA or the Great Salt Lake), "tufa" has a salty, almost decaying connotation to me, which I imagine isn't shared by most people.
Charlie Carnes wrote:
February 17th, 2019, 7:18 am
For me, I generally use mineral/rocks/clay dust, etc., to describe perceptions. We have all experienced petrichor in many forms. Wether its rain on dry asphalt, or freshly watered soil, or even dew drying in a lively forest. It is all in the mind's eye, but the perceptions are real. As for clay, I use it in many descriptors: clay dust, dusty clay road, wet clay, clay soil. I am lucky enough to be a clay miner. I am surrounded by it every day. We dig it wet, deal with it when it gets too dry, blend it with other materials, etc. I even prospect. There is a very distinct aroma when steel auger bits heat up boring through hard clay! I have also been sand mining and processing for years. There are so many earth and soil perceptions that arise out of this as well. Maybe one day I'll be able to use fulgurite perceptions as a descriptor in a wine I drink, probably for a Riesling.
I imagine most of the farmers here have experienced many distinct soil/rock/clay perceptions that come from their vineyards and farms.
I really like the asphalt/soil/forest distinctions here. And the subjectivity of it all. I have a friend who does ceramics and she uses "clay" to describe a very specific set of smells that relate to her own experience - fresh clay, clay dried on her hands, clay baking in the kiln, the smell of the studio.
Christopher Barnes wrote:
February 17th, 2019, 9:01 am
Hello everyone. Minerality in wine is a relatively new area of focus. Enartis (Vinquiry) did a seminar in 2018 on this topic and there is an overview of the seminar found here: viewtopic.php?t=152043 (Note, this is a relatively technical thread)

A key point in the summary is that the relationship between the soil and minerality in wine is "fuzzy".

It is not as simple as "grow grapes in rocks, get rock flavor in the wine". The vines do not care about making wine, they only care about reproduction; thus, the vines to not take up flavors in their roots and put them into the grapes. The vines are interested in nutrients and those nutrients are used in a variety of ways; not just for fruit development. Part of the mystery of wine making is the incredible interactions between the raw ingredients in the fruit and the yeast to make the flavors present in wine. Not many components in grapes actually make it through fermentation unscathed by the fermentation process which is why tasting grapes rarely reflects the final wine character. Therefore, I would say that the winemaking process is much more influential (the only influence?) on minerality in the final wine than the soil/terroir of the vineyard. For example, Enartis' research has indicated that lower Ph wines made in a reductive style (less oxygen) with a closure that does not allow for oxygen transmission will produce more minerality in the wine.
Thanks for the link. It would be surprising if the scents associated with rocks made it into wines in any significant way, since there are so many reactive pathways between a soil and a wine, as you indicate in your comment about yeasts. I've heard the same thing about reductive winemaking promoting minerality.
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#16 Post by Ben M a n d l e r » February 17th, 2019, 12:06 pm

Mattstolz wrote:
February 16th, 2019, 4:20 pm
I love this post. I would be interested to hear wines that you think have specific mineral type qualities that you relate to your time in the field
Muscadet to me often smells like cold water running over rocks. But some of that is cold-suppression of other aromatics.

I think it's hard to associate specific rocky smells with specific wines because rocky smells in the field almost never occur in isolation. I spent about six weeks on a Greek island doing some detailed mapping but the primary smells I recall were of garrigue, olive trees, goats wool, seaspray. Because rocks have so little scent to them, I can only parse a lot of rock-like scents from their environments in places with few other scents, notably (1) very cold environments where plant- and soil-based aromatics are suppressed, (2) plant-free environments, such as quarries, young lava flows, samples in a lab. For that reason I think rocky smells are often invoked when there is a portion of the nose that has no discernable smell beside being very clean. I think that is part of the reason that rocky-type descriptors are used more to describe white wines than reds: there's less phenolic competition.

Rock textures aren't just for tannins (for which chalk and talc are the ones I've used most commonly). If you get playa salts wet they get a greasy consistency to them. Some white Rhones that I've had have reminded me of this. I think for most people this manifests as wooly-oily but my reference point is different.

I've spent a lot of time on volcanoes so my sulfur fault descriptors differ from some people's, but at that point I don't think it matters much if you describe a wine as smelling like rotten eggs or fumaroles. Neither are pleasant.
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#17 Post by Paul Miller » February 17th, 2019, 12:11 pm

Christopher Barnes wrote:
February 17th, 2019, 9:01 am
...
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#18 Post by GregT » February 17th, 2019, 12:40 pm

Hi Ben. It's interesting to get someone who actually knows about rocks to chime in. Chalk dust (for those of us who went to school when they still had slate blackboards) does bring back memories, but I've never found anything resembling that in wine. I never use any of those descriptions and now that you're here, I never will!

I hope you stick around though.
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#19 Post by Mattstolz » February 17th, 2019, 1:41 pm

Ben M a n d l e r wrote:
February 17th, 2019, 12:06 pm

Muscadet to me often smells like cold water running over rocks. But some of that is cold-suppression of other aromatics.

I think it's hard to associate specific rocky smells with specific wines because rocky smells in the field almost never occur in isolation. I spent about six weeks on a Greek island doing some detailed mapping but the primary smells I recall were of garrigue, olive trees, goats wool, seaspray. Because rocks have so little scent to them, I can only parse a lot of rock-like scents from their environments in places with few other scents, notably (1) very cold environments where plant- and soil-based aromatics are suppressed, (2) plant-free environments, such as quarries, young lava flows, samples in a lab. For that reason I think rocky smells are often invoked when there is a portion of the nose that has no discernable smell beside being very clean. I think that is part of the reason that rocky-type descriptors are used more to describe white wines than reds: there's less phenolic competition.

Rock textures aren't just for tannins (for which chalk and talc are the ones I've used most commonly). If you get playa salts wet they get a greasy consistency to them. Some white Rhones that I've had have reminded me of this. I think for most people this manifests as wooly-oily but my reference point is different.

I've spent a lot of time on volcanoes so my sulfur fault descriptors differ from some people's, but at that point I don't think it matters much if you describe a wine as smelling like rotten eggs or fumaroles. Neither are pleasant.
this is great stuff. partially because I love finding out where other peoples interests lie and hearing them talk about things they know well, and partially because other people's sense experiences are so specific. It also sounds like you are a very good observer of these things when you are in the field which makes it even more interesting because its so different than your everyday experiences.

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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#20 Post by Charlie Carnes » February 17th, 2019, 5:13 pm

Ben M a n d l e r wrote:
February 17th, 2019, 12:06 pm
Mattstolz wrote:
February 16th, 2019, 4:20 pm
I love this post. I would be interested to hear wines that you think have specific mineral type qualities that you relate to your time in the field
Muscadet to me often smells like cold water running over rocks. But some of that is cold-suppression of other aromatics.
Awesome stuff there. I have used "cistern" perceptions to describe a similar thoughts...
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#21 Post by John Morris » February 17th, 2019, 7:18 pm

Paul Miller wrote:
February 17th, 2019, 8:10 am
Wasn’t there another thread awhile back about if a particular soil imparted that characteristic into the wine? For example, if grown in soil containing limestone, does that impart a limestone taste into the wine, and if so, how/why?
No! Soils affect wine -- through water and heat retention, for instance, and how much it stresses the vine -- but the tastes in the wine are NOT tastes of the soil. That's a persistent myth. Greg Tatar (I believe it was) gave a great, concise explanation of how few elements a vine absorbs from the soil.
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#22 Post by Marcus Goodfellow » February 17th, 2019, 7:32 pm

Ben M a n d l e r wrote:
February 17th, 2019, 12:06 pm
Mattstolz wrote:
February 16th, 2019, 4:20 pm
I love this post. I would be interested to hear wines that you think have specific mineral type qualities that you relate to your time in the field
Muscadet to me often smells like cold water running over rocks. But some of that is cold-suppression of other aromatics.

I think it's hard to associate specific rocky smells with specific wines because rocky smells in the field almost never occur in isolation. I spent about six weeks on a Greek island doing some detailed mapping but the primary smells I recall were of garrigue, olive trees, goats wool, seaspray. Because rocks have so little scent to them, I can only parse a lot of rock-like scents from their environments in places with few other scents, notably (1) very cold environments where plant- and soil-based aromatics are suppressed, (2) plant-free environments, such as quarries, young lava flows, samples in a lab. For that reason I think rocky smells are often invoked when there is a portion of the nose that has no discernable smell beside being very clean. I think that is part of the reason that rocky-type descriptors are used more to describe white wines than reds: there's less phenolic competition.

Rock textures aren't just for tannins (for which chalk and talc are the ones I've used most commonly). If you get playa salts wet they get a greasy consistency to them. Some white Rhones that I've had have reminded me of this. I think for most people this manifests as wooly-oily but my reference point is different.

I've spent a lot of time on volcanoes so my sulfur fault descriptors differ from some people's, but at that point I don't think it matters much if you describe a wine as smelling like rotten eggs or fumaroles. Neither are pleasant.
Great post!
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#23 Post by brigcampbell » February 17th, 2019, 7:44 pm

Geology B.S., Oregon State University. Go Beavers.

Great topic.

First, let me say as someone who writes lots of tasting notes, many questionable, I have some thoughts on this topic.

For me the descriptors I use resemble common flavors, aromas or textures that we can relate too. Common lemon or lime flavors in high acid wines doesn't mean there's actual fruit in there. Maybe some similar compounds much like those that give vanilla or butter noses in the latic or oak influence.

Specifically for minerals it's textural, aromas, and flavors. Iron, sodium, tin etc can have have very distinct profiles and are probably non existant in the wine. But it sure taste salty, had French whites that you'd swear had sea spray or crushed shells.

Chalk, for me is textural more often. It feels gritty, etc.

So the bottom line for me is about describing a wine in terms that relate to someone that's never tasted the wine.

Columnar basalt? Looks good and tastes great. LOL

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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#24 Post by Paul Miller » February 17th, 2019, 7:52 pm

John Morris wrote:
February 17th, 2019, 7:18 pm
Paul Miller wrote:
February 17th, 2019, 8:10 am
Wasn’t there another thread awhile back about if a particular soil imparted that characteristic into the wine? For example, if grown in soil containing limestone, does that impart a limestone taste into the wine, and if so, how/why?
No! Soils affect wine -- through water and heat retention, for instance, and how much it stresses the vine -- but the tastes in the wine are NOT tastes of the soil. That's a persistent myth. Greg Tatar (I believe it was) gave a great, concise explanation of how few elements a vine absorbs from the soil.
Don’t remember who contributed to the thread, but that was my memory of the outcome - that the soil didn’t impart that flavor to the wine. Hope Greg weighs in.

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Christopher Barnes
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#25 Post by Christopher Barnes » February 18th, 2019, 7:59 am

Paul Miller wrote:
February 17th, 2019, 7:52 pm
John Morris wrote:
February 17th, 2019, 7:18 pm
Paul Miller wrote:
February 17th, 2019, 8:10 am
Wasn’t there another thread awhile back about if a particular soil imparted that characteristic into the wine? For example, if grown in soil containing limestone, does that impart a limestone taste into the wine, and if so, how/why?
No! Soils affect wine -- through water and heat retention, for instance, and how much it stresses the vine -- but the tastes in the wine are NOT tastes of the soil. That's a persistent myth. Greg Tatar (I believe it was) gave a great, concise explanation of how few elements a vine absorbs from the soil.
Don’t remember who contributed to the thread, but that was my memory of the outcome - that the soil didn’t impart that flavor to the wine. Hope Greg weighs in.
Soils do impact the flavors of the wines, but not directly like many (like some marketing folks!) would like us all to believe. The balance of available nutrients, microbial life, texture, depth, organic matter/water holding capacity all are part of the soil's contribution to the terrior. For example a nutrient deficiency can impact the flavor profile of the wine though reduced chlorophyll (lack of potassium will do this, if I recall correctly) which could maybe reduce sugar accumulation but perhaps could (now I'm spit-balling) increase phenolic development as a protective mechanism or to increase color in the fruit because the plant thinks "I'm about to die, please take my berries to make children".
Last edited by Christopher Barnes on February 18th, 2019, 8:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#26 Post by Ben M a n d l e r » February 18th, 2019, 8:06 am

Charlie Carnes wrote:
February 17th, 2019, 5:13 pm
Ben M a n d l e r wrote:
February 17th, 2019, 12:06 pm
Mattstolz wrote:
February 16th, 2019, 4:20 pm
I love this post. I would be interested to hear wines that you think have specific mineral type qualities that you relate to your time in the field
Muscadet to me often smells like cold water running over rocks. But some of that is cold-suppression of other aromatics.
Awesome stuff there. I have used "cistern" perceptions to describe a similar thoughts...
Oh I like that. Very evocative.
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#27 Post by larry schaffer » February 18th, 2019, 8:07 am

So much of this really comes down to your reference point. If you are a geologist and you spend or spent months or years studying rocks and soil and immersed yourself in the smells of these, you are bound to 'find them' in wines more than folks who really never concentrated on those smells. Are they 'there'? Well, to you they may be, to someone who does not have that 'vocabulary' because of lack of exposure or experience, they will not be able to 'detect' them.

I truly and honestly love this discussion and love that some folks are able to 'identify' such unique characteristics in wine . . .

Cheers.
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#28 Post by Ben M a n d l e r » February 18th, 2019, 8:09 am

brigcampbell wrote:
February 17th, 2019, 7:44 pm
Geology B.S., Oregon State University. Go Beavers.

Great topic.

First, let me say as someone who writes lots of tasting notes, many questionable, I have some thoughts on this topic.

For me the descriptors I use resemble common flavors, aromas or textures that we can relate too. Common lemon or lime flavors in high acid wines doesn't mean there's actual fruit in there. Maybe some similar compounds much like those that give vanilla or butter noses in the latic or oak influence.

Specifically for minerals it's textural, aromas, and flavors. Iron, sodium, tin etc can have have very distinct profiles and are probably non existant in the wine. But it sure taste salty, had French whites that you'd swear had sea spray or crushed shells.

Chalk, for me is textural more often. It feels gritty, etc.

So the bottom line for me is about describing a wine in terms that relate to someone that's never tasted the wine.

Columnar basalt? Looks good and tastes great. LOL
Agreed. When I'm tasting with other people though I find that "crushed limestone" or equivalent makes different people think of different smells/tastes/textures. That's fine for an individual's notes for their own reference, but it creates confusion in a group setting. When organizing blind tastings I have found there are few descriptors that cause more confusion or disagreement among a group than those relating to minerality.
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#29 Post by Dan Sch » February 18th, 2019, 5:33 pm

Ben M a n d l e r wrote:
February 18th, 2019, 8:09 am
Agreed. When I'm tasting with other people though I find that "crushed limestone" or equivalent makes different people think of different smells/tastes/textures. That's fine for an individual's notes for their own reference, but it creates confusion in a group setting. When organizing blind tastings I have found there are few descriptors that cause more confusion or disagreement among a group than those relating to minerality.
[/quote]

I am going to be extra careful to avoid any references to rocks in my notes in March -- thanks for warning me!
[thumbs-up.gif]
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#30 Post by Ben M a n d l e r » February 18th, 2019, 6:41 pm

Dan Sch wrote:
February 18th, 2019, 5:33 pm
Ben M a n d l e r wrote:
February 18th, 2019, 8:09 am
Agreed. When I'm tasting with other people though I find that "crushed limestone" or equivalent makes different people think of different smells/tastes/textures. That's fine for an individual's notes for their own reference, but it creates confusion in a group setting. When organizing blind tastings I have found there are few descriptors that cause more confusion or disagreement among a group than those relating to minerality.
I am going to be extra careful to avoid any references to rocks in my notes in March -- thanks for warning me!
[thumbs-up.gif]
[/quote]

[cheers.gif]
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#31 Post by AlexanderWestgarth » February 18th, 2019, 6:57 pm

A chef friend of mine boils rocks from the ocean to make his fish stock, slightly off subject but yea lots of different flavour profiles for sure
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#32 Post by Mike Francisco » February 19th, 2019, 7:44 am

larry schaffer wrote:
February 18th, 2019, 8:07 am
So much of this really comes down to your reference point. If you are a geologist and you spend or spent months or years studying rocks and soil and immersed yourself in the smells of these, you are bound to 'find them' in wines more than folks who really never concentrated on those smells. Are they 'there'? Well, to you they may be, to someone who does not have that 'vocabulary' because of lack of exposure or experience, they will not be able to 'detect' them.

I truly and honestly love this discussion and love that some folks are able to 'identify' such unique characteristics in wine . . .

Cheers.
I think there are some rock/mineral references that are (close to) universal. I think we can all close our eyes and think about, walking across cement or a gravel road just after a rain, walking on a beach covered in broken shells or waiting for a train to pass on a hot sunny afternoon. Are we smelling the cement or the broken shells, I don't know, most likely not, but I think (almost) all of us can reference these and many others in about the same way.

This is a fun thread Ben, thank for bringing it up. [thankyou.gif]

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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#33 Post by Charlie Carnes » February 19th, 2019, 8:14 am

Dan Sch wrote:
February 18th, 2019, 5:33 pm
Ben M a n d l e r wrote:
February 18th, 2019, 8:09 am



I am going to be extra careful to avoid any references to rocks in my notes in March -- thanks for warning me!
[thumbs-up.gif]
Don't stop. Mineral/rock references are fun, while they are certainly not universal, they are very helpful when the taster is known. Like above, my cistern might be somebody else's water running over rocks. Once you know the taster, the note can be translated into your perception lexicon, if you will. Plus, sometimes these hard to describe-or translate- descriptions, can be quite evocative, as Ben said earlier.
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Re: The taste and smell of rocks

#34 Post by John Glas » February 19th, 2019, 6:02 pm

I love rocks especially for landscaping purposes. I will have to start licking them this summer to make sure I have them down for future tasting notes. Right now they are buried under 1 foot of snow in Minneapolis and schools are canceled tomorrow. I might get to golf in May this year.

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