Oh no...here is that word again!

Yup, minerality has been getting good mention here in many tasting notes and thoughts. Here is an article by Jancis Robinson that is sure to draw some attention…and argument!

You mean there aren’t really lemons in my Sauvignon blanc?

You mean there aren’t really lemons in my Sauvignon blanc?

Only the ones from Napa have fresh squeeze lemons in them. New Zealand ones have grapefruit added to bottle.

A somewhat humorous article, Bob. Thanks for sharing it.

Whether the impression of a mineral characteristic in a wine comes from the yeast, surface of the vineyard, or whether Dr. Maltman is standing in the rain and getting wet, there does seem to be a strong suggestion by tasters that it does reflect what they perceive in a wine. As the article goes on to suggest there are numerous theories out there that cannnot come to a collective source for the characteristic.

I sometimes think that wine descriptors go overboard in search for words to describe tasting impressions, and I can’t get overly excited about the subject. Simple for me works. We drank a 2005 Mazis-Chambertin from Jean-Michel Guillon last evening. Aromas suggested a strong oak component, which isn’t surprising since 100% new oak used; huge amount of black cherry fruit in the flavours, together with underlying soft tannins; great structure and balance in the wine; extremely long finish. This wine will benefit from additional cellaring, but gave evidence of its long term potential.

Gee, I got through that without using many of the cliche descriptors. [basic-smile.gif]

Hank [cheers.gif]

And cat pee? :slight_smile:

Doesn’t really mean much to me. I will continue to describe my wines as my sensory perceives them. Hard to be so literal, and limited, on something so subjective.

+1. Reminds me of Coates’ description of 90 DRC: a cathedral full of archbishops in all their finery. (I am sure nobody believes there were archbishops in the bottle.). We all use our best descriptors and metaphors.

Precisely. Was someone seriously making the argument that there is dissolved granite, limestone, or schist in wines grown on those soils, or was this geologist demolishing a straw man?

+1 well said


Few forces are more powerful to a wine geek than the urge to tell others they are doing it wrong

Hank … yes you escaped usual cliches … I especially appreciated the deft use of collaring. I don’t see that word associated with wine too often. Football or steers … yes! Wine … no. Clever! :stuck_out_tongue:


I have long divided wine criticism into two camps and have heard that Meadows now uses my terms–structuralists and adjectivists. The latter use all kinds of adjectives (Cuban tobacco! Valrhona chocolate!) whereas the structuralist are more objective describing balance, acidity, tannins, length. Ideal criticism is probably a blend of both.

“collaring”…??? OK it should have read cellaring. Slip on the keyboard. [basic-smile.gif] [basic-smile.gif]

Hank [cheers.gif]

All is good Hank. Too many times one mentions the dreaded word, we can grab him/her by the collar and give a good shake down [berserker.gif] .

Yes, but correct me if I am wrong. Minerality is something which, absent an agreed upon definition, can’t be shown to be present or absent.

Grapes naturally contain the chemical building blocks which can produce numerous aromatic compounds. Right?

The aromatic chemical(s) responsible from lemon aroma is/are either there or not. This can, at least in theory, be actually checked.


I don’t mind if someone can easily show how wrong this is. It is my current thinking which I am open to adjusting based on evidence.

It once had a fairly agree-upon meaning among people in the trade and wine geeks – a certain smell and taste you could get in crisp whites (e.g., Muscadet, sauvignon blanc, albarino). It was a legitimate descriptor and you didn’t need to hold a view about tastes deriving directly from the vineyard soil (which seems to have been pretty conclusively disproven). In other words, you didn’t have to think the wines smelled like rocks. Like all words, its meaning was defined by conventional usage and people who used it to describe a recognizable characteristic.

In the same way, the term “foxy” that some British wine writers use doesn’t have to mean that foxes urinated on the vines, or anything like that. It referred to a scent that reminded people of furs. That was a less familiar smell to us plebian Americans than it was in the fox-hunting, wine-drinking circles of England, but if you knew how they used it, it was meaningful.

The problem for “minerality” came when lots of people started throwing around descriptors without knowing their established meaning because they had never tasted with people who used the term in a narrow, defined sense. And, unlike “blueberries” or “matchstick” or “vanilla,” which were literal references to aromas we all know, “minerality” was learned by people who tasted with others who used it. But now I see it in tasting notes for 15% California syrahs, and the term seems meaningless because it was not a literal smell/flavor. (I suspect some people think it’s the same or similar to “earthiness.”)

The theory about soils and flavors has done a disservice to “minerality.” But it’s perfectly fine to use terms that aren’t literally true. I suspect “gun flint” probably was evoked by some sulfur (e.g., gunpowder) smells rather than the flint. So let’s not too puritanical and complain that flint has no smell. Similarly, I remember someone complaining that “lead pencil” was a silly term because graphite has no smell. No, but cedar, from which pencils are made, does have a smell and it’s common, particularly in red Bordeaux.

So… I don’t think “minerality” was originally meaningless, or inherently tied to an erroneous theory about mineral flavors coming up from the root. But as it’s used now, it’s utterly meaningless.

I suspect a bit of a straw-man here, notwithstanding Jancis’ article. Obviously no one seriously thinks wines taste of minerals (ignore the chemistry, how would anyone know?). Ditto sweaty saddle, blousey, etc etc. (Another thread had a hilarious example involving underwear I’m reluctant to quote). As I said, Obviously - yes?

Another group of words that we all use that probably defy scientific explanation… Savoury, Tasty, Racy, etc .

Basically all these words, like pornography as notoriously described by a judge, are of the “I know it when I see (taste) it”.

So what?

Tasting notes are presumably conveying an impression of the wine, at a point in time, not a recipe for its reproduction.

Wine descriptors are based on grapes/wine mimicking other aromas/smells, tastes.
Our descriptors are not reality based but rather sensor/semantically based so that we can share/relate our perceptions with others.
Maltman is about 10-12 years behind the times as this was the exact subject at a discussion at NASA Ames I had the privilege to attend. It was so secret I had to get an approved ID from a member of the the intelligencia down there to get passed security.
Guess we did not publicize the panel discussion, so this guy thought he had something new to throw out there to screw with wine lovers. Minerality as a misconception word may have gained in popularity, but the concept of grapes absorbing mineral components from soil that simply cannot be absorbed by flora of any kind is really old news, duh!
Does Maltman care to inform us that wines that smell like barnyards, does not have real shit, but rather brett, too?
“Bring me some fresh wine”(news), as per Steve Martin"!