Filed under: Tasting notes | Tags: acidity, Lettie Teague, minerality, minerally, oceanic, Pinot Noir
In today’s Wall Street Journal, wine writer Lettie Teague dissects the words “mineral” and “minerality” as they apply to wine. Her piece hints at a larger, industry-wide discussion about the terms, as there have been several other articles and panels in the past few months dealing with this topic. Chemist and wine educator Roy Williams writes in Daily Press that, “I have reviewed the information in the literature regarding the possible explanation for what many wine lovers refer to as minerality and I can find nothing that would offer any real scientific evidence that such a phenomenon exists.” A similar sentiment was expressed during a technical session at Pinot Paradise in May and at another conference way back in 2009 (which the New York Times even reported on).
So, even if there aren’t minerals, per se in wines, what does the mention of minerality by wine tasters really mean? In her piece, Teague interviews numerous wine shop owners, viticulture experts, and winemakers in order to get a sense of a common understanding of this terminology. One conclusion that she comes to is that minerality is often equated with acidity. She writes, “I can’t think of a minerally wine that doesn’t have lots of acidity too. That may be one of the key factors to minerality, even if the two aren’t fully synonymous…”
As I was reading this article, I couldn’t help but think about one of our wines (the 2009 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Oppenlander Vineyard) that our former winemaker Chris Nelson described as having “oceanic acidity” – a probable descriptor due to the vineyard’s proximity to the Pacific. In my mind I had conflated this descriptor with “oceanic minerality.” A quick web search reveals that “oceanic minerality” has been bandied about in reference to several wines. The phrase has also been used to describe the aroma of a single malt scotch, the taste of a shrimp dish, and the characteristics of a marine clay spa treatment (the oceanic minerality purportedly aids in cellulite reduction). The term that we’ve linked to one of our Pinot Noir releases, oceanic acidity, hasn’t really picked up momentum as a wine descriptor (although it appears in the tasting notes for a few other wines crafted by our former winemaker), but it does crop up in articles and websites that discuss the effects of climate change (which creates a more acidic ocean).
A big range of wines have been described as having oceanic minerality, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscadet, and Malbec. Whereas with the white wines, I would tend to think that oceanic could imply a briny, salty flavor, with the reds my mind plays back memories of sea breezes, acidity, and wet stone (perhaps sea creature-infused limestone, even though we may not technically be tasting minerals from the soil).
What do you think? Is minerality a term that you use when tasting and describing wine? How does it relate to acidity? And where does the term “oceanic” work into the equation for you?
Filed under: Events, Tasting notes | Tags: Pinot Days San Francisco, Waits-Mast Pinot Noir
In the midst of a warm San Francisco weekend, Pinot Days took place on the edge of the San Francisco Bay on Sunday, June 30, 2013. While crowds swarmed into the city for a particularly celebratory Pride Parade following marriage equality rulings this week, others migrated to Ft. Mason in order to sample Pinot Noir. In the large warehouse space, we were nestled between Wait Cellars (no relation to Waits-Mast, although we are friendly with owner Bob Wait, as we’ve all been making wine in San Francisco since 2005) and Walt Wines in the alphabetical arrangement of wineries at the event. After getting our table in order, we trotted out a rotating selection of samples of Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir throughout the day.
We figured that our iced 2012 Waits-Mast Rose of Pinot Noir from Mendocino would be a welcome first sip for many tasters, especially if they trekked into the city from the hotter outskirts. Although some people skipped it (when offered the rose, there are people who give us the “are you kidding?” look), others seemed to be excited to try it. One fellow told us that he didn’t normally like rose. He agreed to try it and liked it, saying that it was “not the typical rose.” Brian was pleased by that and even snapped a picture of the taster while we were changing his mind about rose. A lot of people commented that it was “nice and dry,” and others said that it had “nice, upfront fruit,” was a “nice summer wine,” that it had a “gorgeous nose,” and was “fun.” Continue reading