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Animal, Vegetable, or… Minerality?

There is a phrase much bandied about the wine industry at the moment. It crops up in magazines, tasting notes and from the mouths of critics online and in print: Minerality.  It seems to be the flavour du jour, but what exactly do people mean by that?

It tends to be used as a positive descriptor in wines, implying that the wine is of high quality; you won’t see a critic using it to describe a £5 wine, but you’ll almost certainly see it used when discussing a finely structured claret or Chablis.

It doesn’t mean that you can taste actual minerals from the ground, whatever critics might like to think, as any specific minerals from the soil that do make it in to the grape are so far below the taste threshold that they might as well not be there.  Even wine-writers and critics are split on what it means, and when (or whether) to use it at all.  It’s a bit like saying something smells salty or saline, just try sniffing some salt.

So what should we think when we see the word ‘minerality’ used to describe a wine? Exactly what it sounds like. Chances are, the wine has an aroma or flavour that makes the critic think about the smell of wet stone after rainfall, or what they imagine that smell might taste like.

Wine writing can be very subjective; even if what they actually smell or taste are umami flavours like soy, or savory flavours; minerality can be a metaphor.

The wine-writer and critic Hugh Johnston has said that it is best thought of as acidity in the wine, a freshness of character.  When you see it on a tasting note or a label, think of it as that.

For some wines that literally exude ‘minerality’, give these wines from our Definition range a shot and see what we mean. We picked these wines for their archetype – they’s classic examples of the wines of that style or region – and these three are living examples of what critics mean when they talk about minerality!

Definition Chablis, France

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A tasting note for good Chablis has ‘stoney’ or ‘slatey’ on there somewhere. Alongside white flowers and citrus peel, possibly. This one we’d add a note of goat’s cheese to.  Which is actually what we’d serve with it, too.

Definition Pouilly-Fumé, France

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The clue is in the Fumé – it means smoked – which comes from the gunflint aromas classically associated with this wine.  With notes of green fruit and dazzlingly fresh acidity, this is a great seafood wine.

Definition Chianti

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Red wines can have mineral qualities too – it’s that seam of freshness running through them. Our Definition Chianti is a great example, with cherry fruit and savoury spice and a seam of stoniness.  Great with a seared fillet steak. Or ragu, naturally.