Examining “minerality”: scientists vs. vignerons and tasters

Asking whether a “mineral” wine truly exists, La revue du vin de France (RVF) presents conflicting views from tasters, vignerons, and researchers, saying that the question opens Pandora’s box. They point out that no trace of “minerality” can be found in the Larousse or Robert dictionaries. The word appeared about twenty years ago, RVF writes, and is now very fashionable. Researcher Yves Le Fur of the INRA* believes that those who employ the term “judge it to be more chic than ‘salinity’ or ‘acidity’.” Some, according to RVF, see it as an olfactory descriptor while others believe it refers to sensations or tastes. Tasters, RVF suggests, think of notes of flint, gunflint, rock, earth after a rain, graphite and other references. Jordi Ballester of the University of Burgundy is quoted as saying that “minerality is frequently correlated with acidity or bitterness.” Denis Dubourdieu, well-known Bordeaux oenologist, makes a connection with reduced sulfur compounds, among them benzene methanethiol, which corresponds to the aroma of flint or gunflint. “Minerality is an abstract sensory descriptor and cannot be taken literally,” Dubourdieu affirms.  A contrary opinion is expressed by Lydia Bourguignon, who says that better “minerality” in wine can be obtained by favoring a living soil and forcing the roots to plunge deeper. Jacques Saumaize, a Mâconnais grower, opines that the description refers to a wine which is “tense, firm, clean, direct, and without make-up.”  RVF mentions other possible sources of “minerality” such as volatile or acetic acid, natural chemical elements including sodium and potassium, and mineral salts. The article concludes that “minerality” retains its mystery for the time being.

*Institut national de la  recherche agronomique

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