Associating wine's perceived minerality with it's origin is a load of nonsense -- that from a geologist Alex Maltman, formerly a professor at Aberystwyth University in Wales, who has been reading about wine for 40 years and growing grapes and making it for 30.
Whatever “minerality” is in wines, it is not the taste of vineyard minerals, he says..
Any perceived connection is ä "romantic myth." because there is just no evidence to make the connection.
So what is it then that influences so many to do so?
A good question and one which is under investigation by New Zealand scientist Dr Wendy Parr, of Lincoln University who says the perception of minerality in wine is not a figment of tasters' imagination, but the source of the perception remains a mystery.
Dr Parr recently collaborated with scientists in France and at Plant and Research in New Zealand, to see if wine professionals at either ends of the earth perceived the same so-called minerality, particulalrly in sauvignon blanc.
Samples were served blind in opaque, standardised glasses in unique order for each if the participants who evaluated the wines by palate (taste and mouth-feel) alone, smell alone and both palate and smell together.
The result: Minerality was perceived by both groups in all cases, and was consistently associated with several wine characteristics -- citrus for example. In fact there were more similarities in perception between the groups than differences, implying that wine professionals share a mental construct of the ‘mineral’ concept, as it applies to sauvignon blanc at least.
But the source of this perception still remains a mystery.
Is it to do with acidity, with sulphide reduction as a result of the widespread use of screwcaps, or is it the absence of perceived flavour in the wine?
For the moment the latter offers the best explanation.
"In the absence of other flavours, it appears that wine is more likely to be referred to as mineral," says Dr Parr whose team will continue the study by looking at certain aspects of wine's chemical composition.
Meantime I'll go along with with the noted British winewriter Andrew Jefford even though I am not entirely happy, as he is, about using ‘mineral’, ‘stone’ or ‘earth’ --- in a strictly metaphorical sense, of course --- to allude to what he calls "a certain sensorial repertoire we associate with worked earth or rocks, just as we use cat’s pee, cream or cassis in a similar metaphorical sense."
"The problem with wielding these metaphors, though, is that if I/we describe a wine whose vine is growing in slate as ‘slatey’, the metaphor is quickly gobbled up by the literal image, and the trusting reader assumes a direct line of transmission.
"We need to wield these terms with care."
Or not at all.