“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland)

Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin




30 August 2011


“A beautifully perfumed, seductive and minerally wine, with lovely freshness, richness and generosity of flavour. Drink it now or cellar for a while.”

Minerally? Oh really? Could this Master of Wine refer to the Silicate class of minerals, like, for example, those silicates with ions of aluminium, magnesium, iron, or calcium? Big range of flavours there. Could he refer to the Carbonate class, which includes calcite, aragonite, dolomite, and siderite: microscopic dead stuff commonly deposited on ocean floors or in caves. Does he mean the Sulfate class, like calcium sulfate, strontium sulfate, barium sulfate (which they squirt up your bottom to check for bowel irregularities), or hydrated calcium sulfate (as in gyprock – plaster board)? Is he confused with the chromate, molybdate, selenate, sulfite, tellurate, and tungstate minerals? Maybe it’s the halides he likes in his wine: calcium fluoride, or maybe sodium, potassium or ammonium chloride? Does he mean the bromide or iodide minerals? The oxides? Hematite, eh? Magnetite? Chromite, magnesium aluminium oxide, iron titanium oxide, rutile, or hydrogen oxide? (That latter baby, by the way, is ICE: frozen H2O – maybe he likes his Mataro, Mourvèdre, or Monastrell on them rocks!) Is it the Sulphidic minerals he sees in his drink, like fool’s gold, or lead sulfide? Does he mean phosphorus or arsenic, or apatite, the major component in teeth and bones? Could it be antimony, bismuth, graphite, or sulphur? Does he smell whewellite, moolooite, mellite, fichtelite, carpathite, evenkite or even abelsonite?

Time to get over this minerally bullshit, folks, unless you know what you’re talking about.


Red said...

Philip, do you take issue with any use of the term, or just its unqualified use?

I often use the term minerality but generally try and qualify it in terms of things like slate, pebbles etc (things I am actually familiar with)

Philip White said...

Using "mineral" as a flavour or aroma descriptor is no more pecise that, say "vegetal". Basil is nothing like pumpkin. "Herbaceousness" is another nonsense: fresh oregano is nothing like wormwood, or lavendar. Pebbles? Pebbles of which rock,which mineral? Limestone or sulphur? My point is that if you can't be specific, there's no point in using an inappropriate generalisation to make it sound like you know what you're talking about.

Garrigue said...

Stick it to the man Whitey! Personally I would prefer some more enlightened prose from some these supposed "professionals" currently plying their wares when reviewing products as difficult to perfect such as fermented grape juice.

Red said...

As a kid I vividly remember having river pebbles in my mouth, and that sensation and taste is the closest thing I can equate to the sensation I might get with a wine I am tasting. However, I'm not a geologist and frankly don't know what type of pebbles they were. So do I therefore not reference pebbles in a tasting note because of this lack of specific knowledge?

Philip White said...

I think that would depend upon who you were writng to, how well you knew them, and what they expected of you. Like, I'm no expert at the flavour of the Red-bellied black snake or African cobra, but when I suggest that a certain wine's got a snake in it, I reckon people know I'm bullshitting. But I still make an attempt to name the type of snake.