Sweet and salty, sour and bitter. Whenever we eat or drink something, we usually use these terms to define what they taste like. Out taste buds, much like our brain, associates certain characteristics to sensations in our mouth when interacting with certain foods or liquids.
The world of wine becomes a bit more complicated when it comes to these characteristics. A glass of wine is a sensorial experience which sometimes touches on the unknown. This is why the four characteristics mentioned above don’t fully encompass the complexity of certain wines on our palate. This is evident when uttering one simple word which is often used in describing wine – minerality.
What is minerality in wine? Let’s begin by saying that there is no clear and certain way of defining minerality. It cannot be used in the same way we say a food is too sweet or a dish where we’ve used too much lemon is too sour. It is impossible to use the term as such. Minerality is a concept that is a bit more subtle then this and is often associated with the territory where a vineyard is grown. The idea of minerality in wine has become quite widespread in the last few years, but the thought that one geological component alone could give wine its mineral quality is not possible considering the diffusion of such elements.
Here we are talking more about a sensation than a taste, a sensation that takes us back to the origin of a wine, to its terroir where the vineyards were grown and matured. A wine with minerality leaves a sensation of healthy acidity, dry, not very fruity and very easy to drink. Minerality belongs to wines that don’t have one dominant olfactive-taste characteristic which stands out among all others. It is never described as fruity or floral. It is more of an “earthy” flavor – dry, net, pleasing but not excessively aromatic. This is a category that can be given to certain whites, reds and rosé wines.
In any case, any time we talk about wine or science there is no one definition of the term “minerality”.The association between smell and taste of a wine and the vineyard from which it comes from surely has something to do with it. It is indeed right to think that the grapes with which a bottle of wine is produced are eventually transformed through chemistry, physics and microbiology, and transformed significantly. Think of a volcanic wine which is rich in sulfur – a wine of such as this one is in a whole other league when it comes to its mineral content.
The debate is still open on what exactly is minerality in wine.