Minerality quote, unquote 5

Published by Sally on August 27, 2013

I haven’t done one of these for quite a while.

If anywhere can lay claim to being the originator of mineral expression in wine, Chablis has to be in with the strongest claim. You can’t visit the region and not get some interesting and possibly insightful views on the subject.  All quotes are from July 2012:

Previous issues of “quote, unquote” are all here too: one, two, three and four.

Louis Moreau, Domaine Louis Moreau
Minerality “has edges, it’s natural acidity, and there’s more in Chablis Villages and Premier Cru.”  He added “austerity is linked to minerality. Earthy, wet stone. Austerity is not distracted by too many other aromas, or fruitiness that you find in other wines.”

Eric Szablowski, ex-cellar master of 23 years standing, for William Fèvre
“There are different expressions of minerality. It can be the warm expression of flinty gunpowder when you break rock.  It can be more a cold minerality, like metallic, as on Petit Chablis, a cold sensation of rocks in your mouth.”

He added “minerality is more iodine, or salt. It gives a straight, vertical line to a wine. Minerality is straight, tension. It’s different from acidity. Acid is very important to minerality. They need each other. Minerality gives a straight, vertical body. Acidity gives taste.”

Szablowski gave some precision to his description, saying “in Chablis I prefer acidity to be around 4g/l sulphuric (~6g/l tartaric) to bring out minerality, and have pH at 3 to 3.2. pH is more important than acidity. pH 3.5 can still have minerality. Under pH3 is too tart for minerality.”

Gilles Fèvre, Domaine Nathalie et Gilles Fèvre
Minerality is “the impression of having limestone in your mouth, a chalky texture, salty in the mouth, it reminds you of the seaside. Maybe also a smokiness.”

He introduced a vintage element to its expression, saying, of their Mont de Milieu parcel “In 2007, because of the hail, we picked only half the grapes. We noticed the wine was very concentrated, maybe a bit fat, not the usual typicity. It was the same in 2008. Then three vintages later, in 2010, it became mineral again, and it’s now showing with minerality.”

Jean-Paul Durup, Jean Durup, Père et fils.
“The main character of Chablis is minerality. If you put the wine in new oak, then minerality is one of the first flavours to be masked by the oak.”

Minerality, he said “is a kind of gunflint flavour, like when you strike two stones together. It is iodine, and oysters.”

A temporal element comes into play: “with age, minerality decreases. Old Chablis tastes like an old Meursault. You lose terroir with age.”

Françis Boudin, Domaine de Chantemerle
Minerality “is gunflint, and acidity. Acidity has a role – to keep the wine. Minerality tastes like stone. The perception of minerality is heightened by acidity.”

And, he said “in hot years there is less minerality. You have fruit, fat, maturity, sugar. If you put sugar on acid you don’t feel the acidity. It’s the same thing for minerality. If the wine is fat and fruity it hides minerality.  In lighter years, for example 2007, there is more minerality because there’s less ripe fruit; the wine is leaner.”

Jean-Philippe Archambaud, managing director of Simonet Febvre
“Chablis is minerality and precision. It’s flinty. If you put water on limestone, that’s a mineral character.”

Regarding oak and minerality, he said “we use no oak except in one Grand Cru – Les Clos. In the early stages oak hides the minerality. When we taste ten years later, it makes minerality much more obvious – later, the oak helps minerality to express itself.”

Didier Picq, Domaine Gilbert Picq et ses Fils
Minerality “is salt, iodine, tannic/hard notes. On certain terroirs – rocky, stony, limestone soils – it looks like grilled and toasted notes.”

Julien Brocard, of Jean-Marc Brocard
Minerality is “the aroma from the earth – iodine, freshness, crushed stones, saltiness, pepper. It is mainly carried by acidity and it always increases in a cool year.”

Lees, he added “reveal minerality, and stabilise the wine”.

My research visit to Chablis was sponsored by the Chablis commission of the Burgundy wine board.

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