The words 'minerality' or 'mineral' appear again and again in wine descriptions, but these are relatively recent additions to the lexicon of wine-speak, barely featuring in wine lists a decade or so ago.
But what exactly does it mean? Like other descriptors it is naturally a subjective assessment of a taste sensation. But while it can't be a literal transference of a specific mineral from the ground the vines were grown in, it has become synonymous with wines of a certain quality with a sense of place, more often than not linked to a specific terroir.
> Read more in Caroline Gilby MW's article - The Mystery of Minerality
Wines to taste
The mineral grapes
A recent study showed that certain grapes were more likely to show a mineral character than others: chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, albariño and chenin blanc among the whites, and syrah, pinot noir, cabernet franc, nebbiolo and cabernet sauvignon, to a lesser extent.
The following wines have been described as showing some aspect of minerality by our buyers and make a good place to start to get the idea of what is meant by this wine description:
the traditional flag bearer of the description 'mineral' makes a good place to start when trying to isolate what this tasting term attempts to evoke. Pure-tasting chardonnay from a cool climate made without the use of oak.
Try The Society's Chablis 2014/2015
New Zealand sauvignon blanc - sauvignon blanc is particularly prone to winning the epithet of 'mineral' and interestingly, it has been shown that the term has been on the rise in New Zealand since the advent of the screwcap closure.
Try Rapaura Springs Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Grüner veltliner - Austria's signature grape saw its rise to fame around the same time as the term 'mineral' started to proliferate in wine notes, so perhaps it's no surprise to find the term used to describe this usually unoaked, fresh-tasting wine's character.
Try Schloss Maissau Weinviertel Grüner Veltliner 2015
Abariño/alvarinho - this trendy white grape thrives in the cool, often damp vineyards of north-west Iberia, in the Rías Baixas of Spain (where it is known as abariño) and over the border in Portugal's Vinho Verde region (where it is known as alvarinho). Capable of producing wines with finesse and perfume, it is probably the highish acidity that results in the use of the term 'mineral' in the description.
Try Anselmo Mendes Contacto Alvarinho Vinho Verde 2015
Chenin blanc - one of the world's most versatile grapes, chenin blanc was particularly prized in the Cape for its ability to retain acidity. It is enjoying a resurgence in popularity as winemakers discover the depth of flavour that plots of old vines are giving.
Try The Liberator 'Midnight Bakkie', Western Cape 2014
…and in the red corner
Chilean pinot noir - the old world doesn't have exclusivity to the term 'mineral' and is used in the description of the wine below by Toby Morrhall to indicate that the flavour is much more nuanced than simply fruity, something attributed to the cool Limarí district with its limestone soils.
Try The Concha y Toro Corte Marcelo Limarí Pinot Noir
Loire cabernet franc - Touraine is one of the spiritual homes for this understated variety, which even in warm years can have quite high acidity, which combined with soft tannins and sometimes flinty aroma, may contribute to its description as 'mineral'.
Try The Chinon 'Pierre de Tuf', Domaine de la Noblaie
Browse for more 'mineral' wines >
Read Caroline Gilby MW's article on minerality >
More tips on tasting wine >
More Q&A's with our buyers >