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A group of geologists in Oregon have a few skeptical things to say about the notion of "minerality" in wine, the Southern Oregon Mail Tribute reports. They've got a good point or two—that the amount of actual minerals in wine is below the threshold of human taste and smell, for instance—though they're a bit wobbly on what the French term terroir actually means, which is not just the soil, but the totality of the influence of a specific place on a wine's character.
Terroir takes into account human influence, too, according to Rhône winemaker Michel Chapoutier, who stopped by our office for a quick tasting a few days ago. Chapoutier also made a nice distinction between what he sees as the two broad types of wine in the world: taste-driven wines (where the producer assesses what consumers want, finds appropriate grape sources, and markets a wine that satisfies that demand) and wines of terroir (where the nature of a specific vineyard determines the character of the wine, the winemaker intervenes as little as possible in order to preserve that character, and then the owner hopes that people will buy it).