Minerality in wine, explained: How it affects taste, aroma and texture

Wednesday, 18 January, 2023
Robb Report, Mike Desimone & Jeff Jenssen
An exploration of the regions that produce great mineral-driven varietals.

If you have taken part in a wine tasting, read an article about wine or even glanced at the back label of a bottle of wine it is likely that you have encountered the word minerality. But defining what that means exactly is where the problems can start-even wine experts disagree on what it is and how it expresses itself in the glass.

Minerality refers to a flavor profile and often a palpable sensation in the mouth. The flavors described generally have to do with rocks or fossils, such as stone, river rock, flint, gravel, slate, asphalt and oyster shell. There is also a sense of salinity, often derived from volcanic soils, that is a component of mineral-driven wines. This is different than other earthy flavors such as forest floor or peat. When we host tastings, very few people will own up to having licked rocks as a child, but almost everyone has gotten a stray bit of oyster or clam shell in their mouth and can recall the taste and texture. Most of us can remember the scent of a chalkboard or pencil lead from our childhood and even those who have never fired a gun are familiar with flint or gunpowder from 4th of July firecrackers.

When minerality is discussed, it is often a quality ascribed to white wine such as Riesling, Assyrtiko, Sauvignon Blanc or Burgundian Chardonnay. One reason we may not hear about minerality in red wine so much is that the oak used for maturation may mask the flavors and aromas associated with minerality, although two reds that are sometimes described as having mineral qualities are those from the volcanic soils of Mount Etna in Sicily and the shale and quartz vineyards of Priorat in Spain. A prime example of the mineral-driven style is Chablis in the northernmost reaches of Burgundy, whose wines are made with 100 percent Chardonnay. The wines have a distinctly different character than the oaky, buttery style that is more prevalent in Napa Valley and further south in Burgundy.

To read full article, click HERE.