I was initially struck by the salt content of the Chagnoleau, a wine that was lean in structure compared to the other two bottles, and with earthy, floral and spicy flavors underlined by that salty quality.
The salinity was also there, albeit to a lesser degree, in the Merlin, which was both richer and simpler than the Chagnoleau, with savory citrus and floral flavors. And it was present in the juicy, beautifully textured Les Crays from the Bret Brothers, with its stony flavors of citrus and melon.
Most wine writers who have used the term would argue that it is a more precise extension of the vaguer and much-discussed quality of “minerality,” a word often considered controversial.
Why? Because people either interpret it literally as if minerals are sucked up from rocks and soil by the roots of a vine and deposited directly into the glass. Or they feel it isn’t specific enough and instead want a more precise analogy, such as shells, slate, or pavement after a rainstorm.
I prefer general rather than precise descriptions of a wine. Non-specific terms such as savory, fruity and mineral touch the general character of a wine. Overly specific descriptions, such as this one I recently read of a Chilean syrah, may seem poetic, but make more sense to the writer as a means of refreshing one’s memory than conveying the nature of a wine to others:
The palate is simply brimming with the blackberry and plum fruit of Santa Rosa, but the bitter brilliance of spring wood sap rages through this intoxicating fruit, with a summery scent like warm creosote, a hint of talcum powder, and a brush of coal dust from a coal mine apron. ”
These are usually not references that are meaningful to me. But salt? That can be helpful for anyone familiar with salt.
As for the source of this property, the only thing that seems clear, as a recent article on salinity in wine pointed out, is that simply measuring the amount of salts in a wine—easy to do in a lab—doesn’t necessarily correlate with how that wine is experienced by drinkers.