Minerality in Wine
I Tasted 3 Rocks So that you don’t have to!
Today I understand minerality in wine by going directly to the source. What does chalk, river stone and slate actually taste like? Learn the definition of minerality in wine and see if wine sommeliers and wine experts are full of… chalk.
Slate Minerality in Wine
Slate is commonly associated with riesling and I feel this to be very true when actually licking a slate rock. I encourage you all to lick slate, it’s delicious! Be sure to boil it to remove all the dangerous microbes. I don’t recommend making yourself sick.
Chalk Minerality in Wine
Chalk is feels like licking a hard sponge that sucks all the moisture out of your mouth. The flavor of chalk reminds me mildly of a very dry Champagne or Brut Zero (a Champagne with no added dosage..aka sugar). However the drying sensation reminds me more of Italian Wines with very strong tannins such as Barolo, Barbaresco and Chianti.
River Stone Minerality in Wine
River stone is supposed to remind people of chenin blanc, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir. The flavor of a river stone is so gross and offensive I don’t feel comfortable talking about it. Please don’t make me try it again. Oh! And! In case you’re curious… You too can buy a bag of rocks for only $6 on amazon.com.
Getting Serious About The Definition of Minerality in Wine
Minerality is neither a single compound or the vines ability to “suck the minerals out of the soil.” It is in fact a combination of all of many different aspects including esters, trace minerals, acidity level and a wines’ alcohol level. To define minerality is like trying to define why someone is tall, there’s too many genes at play that affect someone’s height. So, when wine writers write “Minerality” they are trying to put a name on a multi-faceted characteristic that science doesn’t have a definition for. Instead, as a wine drinker focus more on what you like about a wine in particular and observe the following list of wines that are known for their mineral-like character.
- Riesling from Germany as “Flinty or Slatey”
- Chardonnay from Chablis as “Chalky”
- Sangiovese from Italy (aka Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo) as “Clay” or “Brick”
- Assyrtiko from Greece as “Gritty” or “Concrete”
- Red Bordeaux from France as “Gravelly”
- Pinot noir from Burgundy as “Rustic” “Barnyard” or “Forest-floor”
Madeline: Hey, I’m Madeline and this is Wine Folly. A lot of wine experts talk about minerality in wine. What is that? And why do they always say riverstone, or slate, or chalk? So instead of describe it and talk about it, I just thought I would have the actual rocks and try them.
This is a piece of slate, so lets see if this rock reminds me of German Riesling. The most interesting thing is that it actually kinda does. It smells dark, and crisp, it smells kind of irony, with iron. And when I taste it, I get this kind of a grittyness on my tongue that I can feel in the roof of my mouth when I rub my tongue to the roof of my mouth. Slate and German Riesling, approved.
So what about chalk? You hear a lot about chalk when people talk about Chablis, and Champagne. This is a literal piece of chalk. We’re going to see if this tastes like Chablis. This is a very weird experience. This chalk literally sucks the moisture out of my mouth, and it goes into the chalk. It’s stealing the water in my mouth. Nope, this does not remind me of Chablis.
River stone. This is a river stone, it’s kind of a granite stone. And people talk about Chenin Blanc, or they’ll look to a couple of other white wines, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or maybe even a pale red wine such as Pinot Noir. Having sort of a river stone characteristic to it. It smells like dead fish. I’m so nervous about trying this one. I boiled this rock too for about 15 minutes to try and kill anything on it. I’m so nervous.. This is going to taste like dead fish. Sometimes I’ve smelled a Chardonnay from a certain area of France and it smells kind of like, I usually attribute it to baby diapers, dirty baby diapers. But actually, this is pretty accurate. This kinda smells like Chardonnay. Oh god, it’s just bad. There is so much trepidation here, it’s just not cool. Suffice to say it’s like licking a dead fish. Licking rocks, guys, that is what we do. You know what, I take it back, chalk kinda does remind me of Champagne.