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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Some tasting notes refer to a wine as “pebbly.” I cannot find this descriptor defined anywhere; what does it mean when talking about a wine?

—Dennis R., East Windsor, Conn.

Dear Dennis,

“Pebbly” refers to pebbles or stones, which are under the larger umbrella of “mineral” notes as a wine term. I’ve written about the trickiness of trying to describe mineral terms in the past by saying they are hard to communicate because they fall into the category of “things we recognize in wine but we don’t usually put in our mouths.”

Of all the different ways to describe a mineral note in wine, “pebbly” is probably one of the most accessible. If you ever licked a stone (as a kid, naturally) or remember the smell of wet pebbles, that’s what this term is referring to. I sometimes find other mineral notes in wine, including the smell of cement after rain, the aromas of standing next to a hot brick wall, iron, loam, chalk, flint or slate. They all are slight variations on the same theme, and depending on the context, might evoke certain sensations of a wine’s mouthfeel—after all, pebbles are smooth and chalk is drying.

—Dr. Vinny

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