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Dear Dr. Vinny,

How do you define “minerality” in wine? Is it present in both white and red wines?

—Paul P., Montreal, Quebec

Dear Paul,

“Minerality” is one of the more complicated and oft-misunderstood wine terms, since it doesn’t refer to one specific note, but rather a category of non-fruit, non-herb, non-spice aromas and flavors. Wine Spectator editor at large Harvey Steiman has covered this elusive concept at length in his blog. Minerality reminds me of the sensation of smelling a cement sidewalk after the rain, or of standing next to a hot brick wall. I’ve also seen mineral notes to describe a wine that include loam, chalk, salt, talcum, slate, flint, iron, limestone, petrichor, stony and even pebbly, because who didn’t suck on a pebble when they were a kid?

Minerality is often associated with flinty white wines. Sometimes it comes across more like a salty, saline-vibe, which I can pick up in Sauvignon Blancs or Rieslings. But it’s certainly also present in reds. In some Syrahs, there can be a savory side to minerality, and it can come across as a high-toned note that reminds me of a bloody piece of meat—you might see that referred to as "sanguine" in a tasting note. In other reds, minerality can add a claylike or loamy edge.

—Dr. Vinny

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