Minerality Seminar

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Stewart Johnson
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Minerality Seminar

#1 Post by Stewart Johnson » June 13th, 2018, 10:52 pm

I attended a seminar on minerality that Vinquiry hosted on Tues. This is from memory, as I've mis-laid my notes, and it's just a few of the take-home messages.
It's still very early in this field, and lots of ideas offered were pretty tentative. I don't think anything very solid came out of the vineyard portion. Both poor soils and high CEC soils seemed to cut both ways. Same with organic matter. High pH soils (always calcareous, as far as I know) tended to deliver low pH grapes with minerality potential. Beyond that, the effect mineral content of the soil on the mineral content of the wine remains fuzzy.
Apart from dirt, there was some agreement that grapes had to be picked early, with lower pH and higher malics and fermented and raised reductively to achieve minerality. After that, there is some suppression of fat and fruitiness that can highlight the mineral component. So, whites should go whole cluster, direct to press, without skin contact that will raise pH [I don't think this squares with my experience]. They should be fed sparingly, if at all, and ammonia is to be avoided. Better to have yeast consuming aminos than N. You want yeast producing thiols rather than fruitier esters. Vinquiry found yeast strain Q9 best at producing these notes. Fining out metals, especially copper, that cause oxidation is recommended, and Enartis will be happy to sell you a PVI/chitosan blend and Tan SLI for that purpose. Juice should be pretty turbid to further promote reduction. Anaerobic conditions throughout [there was some discussion of fermentation vessels in promoting reduction, but I'm skeptical that the oxygen demands of active yeasts can't far outstrip to transmission rates of even barrel fermenters] fermentation and elevage. Suppress MLF, or use bacteria that produce little diacetyl, which masks minerality. Wine should be aged on fine lees, without stirring, to further promote reduction [there was a suggestion that the mannoproteins contributed by lees promoted minerality, but that is contrary to my experience]. Wines should be bottled with lots of dissolved CO2 and under closures with low OTR.
All seemed to agree that anyone interested in minerality had to start paying attention to redox potential, and pushing their wines into negative territory, but I'm weak in chemistry, and that's about as much as I gleaned.
Of course, it's real easy to go too far in the reductive direction, and it's no day at the beach to move wines that feature "austerity" as a selling point, so I don't know why any of us would bother. But there you have it.
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Minerality Seminar

#2 Post by Brian Ojalvo » June 14th, 2018, 12:00 am

Thanks Stewart. Love your quick and dirty Cliff Note version of this seminar. Your notes are super informative and well thought out. Thank you.
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Ken Zinns
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Minerality Seminar

#3 Post by Ken Zinns » June 14th, 2018, 7:22 am

Thanks for posting the notes! I was interested in going to this but just no time this week.
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Minerality Seminar

#4 Post by Kim Z » June 14th, 2018, 11:35 am

So much for terrior champagne.gif
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Minerality Seminar

#5 Post by Stewart Johnson » June 15th, 2018, 11:49 pm

Kim Z wrote:So much for terrior champagne.gif
Most of the folks there weren't throwing in the towel re terroir as being an important contributor to minerality. It was more that this part was less well established, and less actionable, than the winemaking part.
On the other hand, one of the wines presented was a Portugese variety normally used as a base for sparkling wine that normally has little character, but was made reductively for still wine and showed a steely minerality. So, maybe it is just a style choice in some instances.
I got there a little late, and probably missed the define-the-terms intro, but most of the descriptors seemed to fit; e.g., chalky, saline, steely/ferrous, petrichor/ozone, flint/struck match, petrol, damp earth, graphite, wet stone, etc. Then, there were a few that seemed thrown in that seemed more like "not fruit" than actually mineral to me; e.g., furfural, eugenol, guaicol, pyrazine, etc.
A couple other winemaking recommendations were made that I forgot to mention above -- heavy toast on barrels and high SO2.
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Minerality Seminar

#6 Post by Matt K » June 21st, 2018, 8:11 am

Great notes, and in-line with what I've been hearing lately. I've been with a new winery that has a penchant for aging on fine lees for extended periods of time, and we just bottled a moderately reductive white that had been aged this way for over a year. Loads of 'minerality'.

It seems much of the conclusions have been anecdotal to a certain degree... But maybe there will be some sort of breakthrough soon enough.

Thanks again!
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Linda Baehr
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Minerality Seminar

#7 Post by Linda Baehr » June 25th, 2018, 5:41 pm

It seems like they are pushing for more acidic wines, which, viola! acidic wines seem more minerally!

Are far as I have ever heard, acid is the component most people think ascribe as minerality.
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Minerality Seminar

#8 Post by Stewart Johnson » July 4th, 2018, 1:18 pm

Linda Baehr wrote:It seems like they are pushing for more acidic wines, which, viola! acidic wines seem more minerally!

Are far as I have ever heard, acid is the component most people think ascribe as minerality.
I think there was near consensus that acidity was a necessary, but not sufficient, requirement for minerality. After all, there are plenty of acidic wines that are very fruity -- regarded as a quality antithetical to minerality. It's too bad that Clark Smith wasn't able to make it. He was scheduled but something came up. In any case, he might be a dissident on the correlation between acidity and minerality. I think he stresses an energetic/electric tang as the marker of minerality that is something apart from acidity and which can be present at higher pHs. He sent along a couple older samples in his absence, but I wasn't able to discern much minerality there behind some serious microbial funk and oxidation.
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