Minerality?! What Does This New Term Mean?

Now, I know I am no expert in this world of wine. My specialty is more along the lines of being able to sniff out who has the good food stashed in their coolers, but I have done a lot of research and a lot of listening around the tasting room.  One term that seems to have everyone scratching their heads – including me – is minerality. Even after all my research, I don’t have any real conclusive information to share with you.

A lot of people think that minerality comes from the vines soaking up the minerals in the soil in which they grow.  From my understanding, that would technically be impossible since the trace amounts of minerals present in the grapes are so small that they could never be detected by human taste buds.  Besides that, many minerals are added to and taken from the wine during the wine-making process. What is curious about this theory is that some regions produce more wines with noticeable minerality than other regions.    

Although sometimes described as a taste, minerality really describes an experience, instead.  The term helps describe the combination of the smell, taste, and mouthfeel of the wine. One article I read called minerality the umami aspect of wine.  When I read that, I knew I had heard the term before, and I quickly recalled that it was mentioned during a meeting with Mikey from Mashita, he explained the umami taste and why it is important to lend savory qualities to foods.  

Minerality works in the same way with wine.  It helps the wine drinker notice all of the other characteristics of the wine by activating the salt receptors in the taste buds.  While it is difficult to put this experience into words, some words that you might hear used to describe a wine that has a minerality quality present are chalk, graphite, oyster shell, wet sidewalk, or crushed rock.  When you are tasting wine at Brix & Columns, you may notice the quality or minerality in our rosé and cabernet franc wines.  

Even though it hasn’t made its way onto the Davis Wine Aroma Wheel, minerality is a term making rounds more and more frequently in the wine world, so you are sure to hear it as you make your rounds to all the great vineyards in Virginia and beyond.  While not everyone understands completely what it means, I hope this blog gave you a bit more grasp of it next time you hear it in the tasting room. I’ll keep nosing around for more information, and hopefully I will find some tasty treats my mom has stashed away for me along the way!