What Sommeliers Mean When They Mention A Wine's Minerality

glasses and bottles of various wines
glasses and bottles of various wines - Catlane/Getty Images

Sommeliers and oenologists can come up with some pretty creative ways to describe wines. From pencil shavings to cut grass, the notes these connoisseurs pick up may not be the first thing that springs to mind after taking a sip at the end of a long day. Once you hear the term, however, it can make sense as you swallow that first gulp of wine. Bringing up minerals when it comes to wine bottles may sound surprising when you're tasting wine, but the term has come to indicate a specific palate used when describing a pour. Not only does the phrase minerality reference earthier flavors that bring to mind rocks and soil, but a wine's minerality can also encompass certain textures that move across the tongue.

While other tasting notes are directly tied to the grapes in a blend or how a bottle is aged, minerality is most closely associated with the soil and climate in which grapes are grown. White wines are most commonly associated with this crisp minerality, but red wines taken from soils with volcanic compositions can also offer notes of stone and slate. If grapes are cultivated in an area peppered with limestone, fossils, or shells, some of these nutrients found in the ground will impact the flavor of the grapes.

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A Descriptor Up For Debate

woman inspecting wine
woman inspecting wine - PeopleImages.com - Yuri A/Shutterstock

Keep in mind that minerality may mean different things to different connoisseurs, and because the definition is not definitive, the term can evoke a variety of experiences for keen wine tasters. "I don't want to go too deep because I'm not a scientist and I am not pretending to be one, but the confusing part is that in general we cannot actually taste minerals. It's more of an association," Sommelier Melania Battiston told Club Oenologique. "I think it's quite metaphorical, which is why it's hard to define. If you can imagine licking a rock, you would have a sensation of what it was like, and the feeling it would give you on your tongue." Some sommeliers have pushed to replace minerality with the word with electricity, instead, as the charged term more aptly notes the tension that zingy punchy wines can provide.

If you're looking to experience wines that are frequently described as mineral, however, reach for Chablis or wines hailing from either Greece's Santorini or Italy's Soave regions. Should you host a wine party and struggle to identify flavors of oyster shell or flint, know that even a trained sommelier will admit that descriptions can vary from one palate to the next. Whether you experience your glass as crunchy or loud or simply can't get past more generic buttery, fruity notes, know that your descriptions are not necessarily wrong. Keep an open mind and keep on sipping.

Read the original article on Tasting Table