A short version of this mini-article was published in Decanter December 2016 as Perpetuating a myth .. a riposte by M Dalton-Placzek was published in the February edition 2017. The argument was along the lines that a chocolate note in a wine validated the usage of a mineral or minerality note.
Of course I disagree – chocolate is represented by chemical compounds and is readily intelligible and experienced, on the other hand minerality remains undefined and not readily experienced or conveyed, acting as a sort of umbrella term for high acidity, sulphurous notes and lack of flavour, so why not say that? The unintended consequence of using minerality, is that consumers may well turn away from wines with such descriptors.
A mineral epidemic
There are many consumers, me included, who do not like the term minerality in simple or compound form, nor any allusion to aroma or flavour in wine, of minerals or rocks crushed or pulverised. This is simply because it does not make scientific sense – minerals have neither an aroma nor a flavour, and minerality is widely discounted, with no serious text on wine tasting mentioning it.
I carried out a 30 minute survey of Decanter issue September 2016, counting just over 100 occurrences, mostly within tasting notes, of mineral, minerality, flint, graphite, gravel, limestone, silex, saline, stony and so on.
When these terms are missing, a tasting note seems fuller, to flow, and be more informative. I feel cheated by mineral allusions and associate redundant infill, which mean nothing to me, as I cannot get to grips with it. Now tell me that there is an aroma of white camphor or guava, and I will make it my business to experience a sample of the raw material; but perhaps not black raspberry.
On many occasions substitution of mineral allusions with eg a touch of reduction (sulphur is more accurate, and preferred), or marked or strident acidity, are much more helpful in conveying a wine’s character – so why cloud a description with at best ill-defined terms, which have to be taken on trust.
Even professionals contribute to this divine mystery, with entries eg mineral rich soils from volcanic terroirs give their wines a distinct stylistic fingerprint … saline, mineral edge to the palate often evident …; and … smoky edge which suggests some heavier clay soils … The connections implied must surely be without foundation, otherwise eg all vineyards on heavy clay soil would exhibit smoky notes – do they?
There are clusters of tasting notes which are clean, suggesting that at least some of (Decanter) your commentators seem to avoid the dreaded terms. I applaud them and look to the future by returning to the past, and pretending that the invention of minerality never occurred.