Could someone have dropped some pebbles in the wine ? Over the last few years the expression “minerality” has worked its way into the vocabulary of sommeliers and wine-lovers. And with this disclosure we have seen a reappearance of aromas seeming to come straight out of the rock, accompanied by a forgotten taste of terroir. Indeed, following their “liberation” these characteristics are now finding their way into wine cellars and our consciousness. So what is this “minerality” ? Hidden behind this neologism with cloudy contours we find a combination of sensations : olfactive, gustative and tactile. Sensations that can be discovered during a tasting of Chablis ; the archetype of “mineral” wines.
This affair is the cause of much commotion in the small world of œnologists and wine-lovers. Since the 1970’s, wine tasters from around the world have thought that agreement was reached regarding a common language : to each his own perception, but a shared vocabulary for all. Resulting in precise, yet universal terms to describe an aroma or a bouquet. Œnology even went so far as to “collar” certain difficult-to-tag sensations using chemical formulas with polyphenols, aldehydes or esters.
And then, without anyone really knowing when or how, a mysterious word burst into the nicely organised lexicon, a hazy sort of term without boundaries that no-one, until now, has been able to define : minerality.
Tense and vigorous
The word “minerality” does not appear in any of the ancient tomes about wine. So what meaning do we attribute to this term that does not exist ? And where should look in order to unearth this minerality ? A few tasters believe to have caught a hint of it in some red wines.They are still looking… This is because the clues are far more numerous in white wines. The best sommeliers, working as sleuths, have found traces of it by following the Loire upstream then branching off towards Burgundy and Alsace. They found its tracks in Muscadet, Sancerre, Chablis and Riesling. But the quarry does not allow itself to be caught that easily. It requires a meticulous examination to identify the telltale aromas : flint, gunflint, chalk, pencil graphite, steeliness…
Some experts can recognize notes of petroleum ; others find traces of seashells and iodine. And yet there is that odd sensation : something similar to holding a pebble in your mouth.
Damien Leclerc, managing director of la Chablisienne and our guide in this quest for minerality, takes us deeper into the descriptive metaphors. His words to describe this notion are “those first big raindrops that fall and dry just before a storm on a hot, dry day” beautifully expressing the concept of minerality. There is a sudden refreshing sensation that invades the atmosphere, while at the same time there is tension in the air. A sort of energy, like before an earth tremor.
“Minerality also exudes a certain form of purity, a crystalline expression of the wine” he concludes.