July 20, 2014

What is Minerality in Wine?

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 This article discussing Minerality in Wine is part of our wine guide series.  A series of articles focusing on the nuances of wine tasting and wine education. In this quick guide, we take a look at what minerality is in wine, how minerality tastes and what causes these mineral flavors.

  Defining Minerality

While there is no one true definition of minerality in wine, most professionals in the wine industry agree that minerality describes the “stoney” or “earthy” nature of various aromatic and flavoric notes in wine. Where this mineralistic flavor is derived from varies in opinion and there is no scientific explanation as to which is completely correct.

Minerality in wine

Many experts agree that the presence or degree of minerality detectable in a wine depends on a variety of factors, but largely originates from the soil. Specific flavor and intensity is likely affected by the terroir from which the grapes were originally grown.

The presence of magnesium, iron, potassium and other common minerals within the earth all affect the type and degree of mineral taste experienced when you drink wine.

Minerality in wine

Limestone minerals are present in many famous wine growing regions like Rioja, Spain. Limestone is actually what remains of ancient inland seas, where over millenia, the remains of coral and other sealife stack on eachother, creating immense pressure. The result is limestone, which is often stacked with fossils. When you’re drinking a wine grown in limestone, you can imagine that you’re sampling ancient sea life in your glass! Image courtesy Summitpost.org.

  Describing the flavors of Minerality in Wine

You’ll often hear wine experts use descriptive phrases and terms along the lines of chalky, wet limestone, slate, flint and gravel-like during their aroma and flavor assessment.  In fact, describing minerality (or lack there of) is included in the first part of the master sommelier tasting assessment.

Related: New evidence shows mineral flavors may come from chemical processes during winemaking

  People Describe and Experience Minerality in Different Ways

This is often overlooked, but remember that when interpreting minerality, one individual may perceive and interpret it differently than another. This is also true when describing other aromas and flavor notes within a wine.

If you’ve never smelled wet cement or chiseled limestone up close before, your description may gravitate to other stoney objects you’ve interacted with more previously. Bare this in mind when assessing or listening to an assement of a wine. Get out there and try to let your olfactory sense experience as many smells as possible so you can most correctly describe a flavor.

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