Minerality in wine: between terroir and marketing abuse
Minerality is a correct concept to describe the wine of certain terroir and becomes pure marketing elsewhere. But do we really need to understand its origin?
Leone Zot wrote a wonderful post for Intravino on minerality in wine. The beginning is very technical with the explanation of how the brain processes what the senses perceive.
HOW THE BRAIN DECODES ODORS AND FLAVORS BASED ON PLEASURE AND MEMORIES
This translates into practice what Vincenzo Russo, the Italian guru of neuro-marketing, has been saying for years. Russo says that what the nose and mouth feel goes through the cerebral filters of pleasure and memory .It then returns emotions and memories not objective but becomes subjective, intimate, no longer exchangeable. This opinion is based on scientific evidence that is very solid and recognised worldwide. A theory that overturns the concept of organoleptic objective tasting, supported for years by sommeliers and wine critics.
Therefore, in practice no taster is an objective judge , just as is not an art critic or a music critic. Everybody filters the judgment based on their own previous experiences and the best are those with greater competence and greater openness to the new.
MINERALITY IN THE BRAIN AND IN THE GLASS
Through tasting, the human brain sums ancestral experiences, in the millions of years in which man has decided what to eat and what to drink. Using nose and mouth, and personal experiences. The minerality in wine is difficult to place in this scenario but….. “I get sulfur notes referring to the non sulfur metal, the flint when it is rubbed. Also not too far from the sulfur, I get salinity and hydrocarbons” says Leone Zot and we all had the same experience bringing to the nose many glasses.
THE ORIGIN OF MINERALITY OF WINE
The problem is figuring out where these minerals come from since, except in a few cases, minerals do not smell. This is why universities all over the world have unleashed searches for the origin of such sensations. Malic acid or Solfinic acid, benzyl mercaptane, trimethyl-dihydronaphthalene, to the psychological profile of the taster are all under scrutiny.
It is at this point that the contribution by Leone Zot becomes a rare pearl building a series of very fascinating hypotheses. Especially the derivation of sulfur compounds from fermentation dynamics his opinion is important. Here is the benzyl mercaptane of some Chardonnay from Burgundy ” the potassium salts, calcium and magnesium or sulfur compounds such as dimethyl sulfide (DMS) which at some concentrations give the sensation of salinity that we find in some Vermentino of Riviera Ligure, the 1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene (TDN) derived from the degradation of carotenoids, which gives that characteristic note of kerosene present in the Rieslings of the Moselle or in the Timorasso of Colli Tortonesi”.
CORRECT USE AND ABUSE OF THE WORD MINERALITY IN WINE
It’s like watching Mickey apprentice sorcerer listening to Paul Dukas’ symphonic poem! Bravo this Leone Zot who finally makes us understand difficult things with understandable words. Less easy the last part of his post that clarifies the limit of the use of the word mineral connected to certain terroir of the old world from the abuse of the same term by marketing professionals especially in the new producing countries. Abuse that led to negative reactions by the US Geological Association.
Together, the article is one of the most intelligent expositions on minerality, a complicated subject on which scientists have not yet put firm points.
DOES KNOWING THE ORIGIN OF MINERALITY INCREASE THE CHARM OF WINE?
The mystery gives an extra charm to the minerality in wine. Something intriguing and attractive that every wine lover feels opening very old bottles of a great wine – like a Brunello- or tasting extreme expressions like those obtained from centuries-old vineyards. But in the end it is this mystery that is the essence of the memorable tasting, the one to remember all life and for this, perhaps, the solution of the mystery with oenological chemistry does not increase but rather diminishes the pleasure.