We all know that the best wines today have to be ‘chalky’, ‘slatey’ or ‘gravelly’ – that is a major thing that distinguishes them from everyday, merely fruity wines. It would be interesting to do a research project on how this situation came about (MW research project anyone?) But that is not for now.
Andover Wine Friends had a ‘fruit or mineral’ tasting to see if we could experience what the wine trade is talking about. We lined up a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and a Sancerre, a Rheingau and a Clare Valley Riesling, a brilliant Etna Rosso from Graci and so on. And what did we learn?
- low fruit intensity is a starter – compare the two Sauvignon Blancs, with Sancerre’s chalkiness compared to the Clare Valley’s pure lime juice
- high acidity is definitely a pointer – all four wines mentioned thus far; blocking malolactic conversion helps too
- a certain steeliness, tautness, in the mid-palate – Rheingau Riesling
- a hint of ‘garlic’ reduction – actually on the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
- something difficult to define in Assyrtiko, a taut, high acidity white from Santorini or Greece, light citrus fruit and just a touch of earthiness …
- and minerality is definitely not a taste of bedrock or even soil magically transmitted to the glass. On all this, see my earlier post
And the conclusion? Minerality is a suitably vague but useful tasting metaphor. It can be helpful if you can be more specific (hence ‘gravelly’ etc.) and don’t make dodgy connections with the soils in which the grapes were grown. And that is as far as we can get at the moment.
For the full scientific state of play: Wendy Parr and colleagues, ‘Minerality and wine: towards the reality behind the myths’ (2018)