The Language of Wine: What Is Meant by ‘Minerality’?

It could happen with a glass of German Riesling from the bucolic Rhine region.

It could happen with a glass of white Chablis from the Burgundy appellation of France.

A person with some knowledge of wine might take a sip and say something like, “This wine has a nice minerality to it.”

Presuming the person is surrounded by other people with some knowledge of wine, the comment likely would evoke responses such as:

* “It sure does.”

* “It’s in the background, but it’s certainly there.”

* “Just as it should be.”

On the other hand, a newcomer to wine or someone who simply enjoys drinking wine as opposed to thinking about it might respond in a different way:

“You mean it tastes like rocks?”

So what is meant by the term “minerality” as it applies to wine?

Well, to be honest, it’s somewhat difficult to describe. “Steely” is another term you may hear when the topic is minerality. It also has been described as the umami of the wine world — not sweet, not sour, not bitter, not salty… but something else.

It’s a quality most often encountered in white wines from cooler growing regions, which is why Rhine Rieslings and Chardonnays from Chablis so often exhibit it.

These are crisp wines that are perfect for sipping solo, yet also can be enjoyed with anything that exhibits a similar quality — such as raw oysters.

Lesson learned: Never allow the language of wine to intimidate you. Simply be aware that different types of wine exhibit unique qualities — including one quality known as minerality.

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Posted in Wine FAQ, Wine in the Glass
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