Minerality in Wine – Harry Melck CWM

There has been a strong focus on minerality in wine recently. This is because the term is being used more and more to describe wines, yet there is no real definition of what it really means. It was for this reason that Lizette Tolken CWM put together a tasting to test what minerality meant for those in attendance, including a panel of three experts (scientists, doctors and the like).

Before any wines were poured Lizette went through a series of studies on the minerality of wine and it struck me that even with all this information there was no definitive consensus on what causes minerality in wine and how it is defined.

The tasting that followed consisted of three blind flights of four wines. Each wine was selected on the notion that it contained minerality. The idea was that the participants would write notes about the wines with a focus on the perceived levels of minerality in the wine. All the scores were tallied to give an overall score on the levels of minerality. The results were very interesting.

Below are the wines used with the associated scores for minerality.

The first flight consisted of:

  1. Heritiers du Comte Lafon Clos de la Crochette Macon 2016 96
  2. Oystercatcher 2016 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve WO Elim 89
  3. Dönnhoff Nahe Riesling 2017 74
  4. Celestina 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Sémillon WO Cape Agulhas 100

This flight had the highest minerality scores. What was surprising to all was that it was the Celestina, a South African wine, that was voted the most mineral out of the flight. Most would consider that minerality is more often associated with Old World wines.

The second flight consisted of:

  1. Comte Lafond Sancerre 2016 88
  2. Avondale Grenache, Syrah & Mourvèdre WO Paarl 2018 47
  3. Avondale Chenin Blanc WO Paarl 2018 101
  4. Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett Mosel 2016 52

Again, it was a South African wine, the Avondale Chenin Blanc, that was voted as having the highest minerality. This is possibly because the wine is fermented in a Quervi, ancient clay vessels from the country Georgia dating back over 8000 years. It was also interesting that the only red wine shown on the night scored the lowest minerality score out of all the wines.

The final flight was:

  1. Daniel Dampt Les Vaillons Chablis Premier Cru 2016 97
  2. Cap Maritime Chardonnay WO Upper Hemel-en-Aarde 2017 90
  3. Huet Le Mont Sec Vouvray 2016 54
  4. Domaine Roger du Carrou Sancerre 2015 83

In this flight, the Chablis scored the highest for minerality, which is what I would expect in my framework of what I consider minerality to be. Often described as chalky, flinty or wet stones Chablis is one of the wines I think of when people mention minerality.

So, what did this very enjoyable and insightful tasting show me. The descriptors used to describe minerality were terms that resonate with my list of descriptors for wine aromas. These included wet stone, flinty, chalky, terpene and smokey.

The other thing that I took from the tasting is that there were general principles that held true for all the wines:

  • Those wines with low natural pH and high acid tended to show greater levels of minerality
  • Wines that were fruity or aromatic tended to lower the perception of any minerality in the glass
  • Wines that showed minerality were of a superior quality to the more commercially produced wines.

Thanks again Lizette it was a great experience!