Romancing the Stone: minerality in wine

I love 80’s adventure movies. I was thinking this morning about the movie “Romancing the Stone” and suddenly thought about a term sometimes used to describe wines: minerality….

In this post I’ll talk a bit about this description in wine (Word does not even seems to have it in its spell check!). Minerality is sometimes used to describe the aroma or even taste of certain wine. Now I do not know about you, but I have never been keen on chewing on stones, so how minerality smell or taste like, I’m not sure. So I decided to go have a look on what type of scientific research has been done on this.

The famous Chardonnay wines from Chablis is often called mineral, with this description also being used for some white wines made from other cultivars. Researchers in France investigated how French wine experts (winemakers, wine professionals and wine judges) rate and link minerality to certain descriptors Chablis wines.  In this study wines that were described as being mineral in nature by the original producers were first evaluated in a blind manner by the professionals in a first tasting. They also had to give a so called free description of each wine, in other words, they could write any type of description that they perceive for each wine. The term minerality were then not often used. In a second tasting they were actually asked to rate the minerality in these wines without knowing that they tasted the same wines again. Interesting enough they then rated some wines to be higher in terms of minerality. This terms often correlated with wines previously described as being reductive in their aroma or seashore associated. In terms of the palate, high acidity and bitterness were two descriptors related to minerality by the experts. However, there was little consensus between the experts on which wines were higher in terms of minerality of what the terms actually implies.pexels-photo-235990.jpeg stones

In another study where New Zealand and French wine professionals rated this term in NZ and French Sauvignon blanc wines more uniformity were found, with certain wines being rated higher in minerality by panels from both countries. However, the French panel linked minerality more to the smell of the wine, with the NZ panel linking it to both the pallet and aroma. In this study minerality were not really associated with reductive nots, but rather citrus, flinty and chalky. Passion fruit and green aromas, often found in NZ Sauvignon blanc wines, were negatively correlated with minerality, and it seems that the more aromatic expressive wines were described to be less mineral in general. Certain flavours might elicit a response of mineral with certain wine evaluators, with the cultural background of the evaluator also playing a role. It seems that minerality is still a mysterious, not well characterised descriptor in wine, but this does not mean that it is not perceived in wine by wine lovers. Almost as elusive as Kathleen Turner before she fell for Michael Douglas’ charm!


References for more information

Ballester, M. Mihnea, D. Peyron and D. Valentin. (2013). Exploring minerality of Burgundy Chardonnay wines: a sensory approach with wine experts and trained panellists. Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research 19, 140–152.

Wendy V. Parr , Jordi Ballester , Dominique Peyron , Claire Grose , Dominique Valentin. (2015). Perceived minerality in Sauvignon wines: Influence of culture and perception mode.  Food Quality and Preference, 41, 121-132.


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