What the f… is minerality?


What the f… is minerality?

yes indeed what is the minerality you probably keep on hearing about when talking about some wines? Well, as usual, there could be as many answers as there are wine lovers. Everybody usually comes with his/her sensory definition. Unfortunately in some winegrowers’ minds sometimes, just sometimes, “minerality” will become the posh flamboyant excuse for acidity, lack of maturity or other unexplainable oddity in a wine … well, Minerality (see what I did with the capital M) is not an excuse it is the embodiment of a Terroir.

As far as Chablis wines go there is no such thing as one type of minerality. Here are three ways you can feel it:

  1. Minerals: in that occasion it can be seen as rocky, flinty, chalky, stony. I am sure you are getting the idea, but do you have a fair representation of what those smell or taste like? Chances are you never really had the occasion to lick, chew or munch on any type of rock. But when you think of a sunny, warm spring or summer day and an outdoors walk that’s ending with a bit of rain you are getting close to that minerality.
  2. Earthiness: this one is probably easier to explain because as kids we have all tested a handful or two of actual soil. Well taste no further actual soil expressions are what you are looking for. Now the intensity of that style of minerality can take you from the subtle notes of a dry field that as just been ploughed to the dense overpowering muddiness of wet clay. I personally draw the line before the damp cloth, slightly unclean gym with a hint of sewage smell some call rustic, earthy minerality.
  3. Salinity: remember the last time you were at the beach when you nearly drowned because you somewhat managed to inhale seawater? Well you know first hand what this style of minerality is like. You do not really have to undergo that type of experience to understand it though. You probably, in a “safer environment”, had oysters or had a walk on a seafront. Well unless it’s was at a dodgy restaurant or on very hot day and algae started decomposing on the sand this style of minerality really is close to crush oyster-shells or to a nice walk by the sea.

Of course there seems to be a link between the bedrock found in Chablis which is packed with oyster-shells and those different styles of minerality. Now do I have scientific evidence that the rocks compound are drained in the grapes … not really! It even looks like none of that is really happening in quantities large enough that we could pick it up. Nonetheless it seems that when you travel to different vineyards and taste different wines a lot of makers agree that what’s underneath the vines shows in the wines.

In my humble opinion it actually doesn’t really matter. What you feel doesn’t always need an explanation. So sit back and enjoy Minerality!

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