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Written in Stone?

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#1

The other day I read the really intriguing article in Decanter called ‘Terroir and Taste’. The question it posed was “do the rocks and stones in a vineyard actually matter?”, and the pretty categorical conclusion was ‘no’. In fact it went as far as saying that “whatever the notes say, we can’t taste ‘minerals’ in wine”.

It left me wondering where it leaves the ‘flint’ in Chablis, the ‘volcanic minerals’ in Etna wines, and the ‘chalky minerality’ in an English fizz from the South Downs. There are so many notes and descriptions telling us about how the vine roots pick up minerals from the soil that then leave an imprint in the wine. Unless I read the article wrongly, the writer, Alex Maltman (who is a geologist and an Earth Scientist, I believe), pretty much debunks that notion. But we do taste these flavours, right…?

Did anyone else read this article? What were your thoughts? :thinking:


#2

Didn’t read this one, but there was a Jancis article a year or so ago pretty much along the same lines.

https://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/the-elusive-mword

It’s in the free for all section so shouldn’t be behind the paywall.

Basically saying let’s see the evidence from rigorous blind tasting…the best that can be said according to this is that wines might reflect some characteristics from the micro organisms in the soil but not the bedrock.


#3

And an even more up to date one today…

https://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/permission-to-use-the-mword

referencing the Maltman article.


#4

Review of Maltman’s book (which is on my reading list) here:

http://www.worldoffinewine.com/News/book-review-vineyards-rocks-soils-the-wine-lovers-guide-to-geology-by-alex-maltman-6264558/


#5

I haven’t read that particular article, but I have read quite a lot of Maltman’s writing on the subject of wine, including his book. If you read what he says carefully he is actually quite measured in what he says about bedrock and minerals. For example he certainly acknowledges the effect of bedrock on drainage in some instances, which is very important for wine. But he rightly calls-out a lot of the nonsense about minerality in wine.

Here is my view on his book in more detail

As far as I know there is only one study on the effect of base-rock on wine flavour that is in any way scientific, and I describe it here


I also know of a few informal blind tastings checking for terroir differences that have failed miserably, and cannot recall any successes. Make of that what you will. I think it might indicate that there are differences, but you need tasters trained to identify them, and general tasting experience does not cut it.


#6

I enjoyed your review and had to smile at your mention of the tuffeau etc confusion having had to proofread an article by Maltman (which I am sure you will have read) In my part time job (pro bono) with WoFW. By the end I think I had the distinction between the various terms clear in my mind…


#7

The suggestibility of us humans…? :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


#8

The problem with that it is the tasters who claim to taste these minerals, I mean inert objects, and they are hardly likely having invented the phrases to then debunk them, I have never tasted any actual minerality in wine and nor has anyone I know, if it tastes of nothing what is to taste.
We’re back to the flowery descriptions thread here , in the latest Decanter Oz Clarke, who I might add I like, says of a wine “a little warm dust” seriously he’s of his rocker in a nice way but dust !


#9

I could not find details of the training the tasters were given, but presume it was to enable them to reliably assess the strength of certain flavour characteristics of the Rieslings. And certainly not to compare the wines with licking rocks.

Note also that the tasters themselves did not necessarily directly identify the bedrocks. But the rocks could be identifed by using a statistical analysis of the wines flavour profiles.


#10

It all gets very “muddied”, can’t taste that either, but I have been drinking Rieslings of all qualities for 50 years, never have have I detected anthing that would make me say it tasted like slate or a mineral, they do not taste and I do not believe they impart anything in the grapes either, it is a growing medium that is all, the only time I tasted stones I was about five, couldn’t taste anything then either and got a good hiding for putting them in my mouth !


#11

The bedrock is not even a growing medium!

I do actually tend to agree with you, but then those results for Riesling are difficult to explain. If they are replicated in a peer-reviewed journal I would be convinced.


#12

I think quite often the wine hacks get so caught up in the romance of wines having a special sense of place that they convince themselves they can taste the very detritus surrounding the roots. In the moment, it probably tastes very real.

And a figure of authority can give an anxious person a sugar pill, telling them it will calm them down and slow their pulse, and lo and behold the subject is nice and chilled out thanks to the placebo.

So there we are…


#13

So was your JP Chenet grown in anti freeze? :wink:


#14

“You spray your vines with whaaaaat???”


#15

On second thoughts, maybe that’s the tasty solution to all those horrible spring frosts they’ve been having lately :biohazard::biohazard: