Beginners Corner

Snooth User: Anna Savino

Iron taste in wine

Posted by Anna Savino, Mar 5, 2013.

I don't feel like iron is a proper wine descriptor but it is something that I recently perceived. The wine definitely was not was actually DELICIOUS.

Would this be considered as having good minerality? Come from mineral rich soils? 

It is a Sicilian red wine called Nerello Mascalese and I am not sure if this is a typical trait? I know it can be considered maybe flinty or steely in whites...

Any info on this topic?


cin cin


Reply by outthere, Mar 5, 2013.

I find iron notes a lot in Syrah and Petite Sirah. I like it in this type of variety. Combines well with smoky gamey flavors.

Reply by JonDerry, Mar 5, 2013.

I remember noting this in some very old Ridge Zinfandel, and I'm sure with some other varieties. One of those flavors that must come from the ground, which is always great for complexity.

Also nice to see a post not titled "Hello Snooth!"

Reply by amour, Mar 5, 2013.

Interesting discussion......Take Chateau Musar/Lebanon.....the very thing that some call a fault, is seen as complexity by others...and that is the acid volatility of the aroma in their wines...I had them from time to time, even a few days ago...but the volatility disappeared very quickly and I never even remembered it, to be is said that it comes from the iron rich soil of the Bekaa Valley.  Some speak of "Nail Varnish remover/ Acetone" when describing the sensation upon opening Musar.

Some say poor winemaking, others suggest bacteria due to oxygenation.

The iron taste must definitely be from the soil.

Reply by GregT, Mar 5, 2013.

"Would this be considered as having good minerality? Come from mineral rich soils?"

One has nothing at all to do with the other. All soils are rich in minerals. What is soil? It's the product of weather on some kind of rock, with some organic matter mixed in. On hills and mountainsides, the water can erode and run down with the mineral components into valleys below.  So valleys usually have "richer" soils than mountainsides.

What is rock? It's a collection of minerals. But "minerals" can be defined in various ways. One definition is something with a regular crystalline structure. That's useless as a tasting note because those minerals, like say, quartz, are not volatile and are tasteless. Some minerals break up into cations and anions, for example sodium chloride, which is table salt. You don't taste the actual mineral, you taste the component parts.

In any event, the term "minerality" as a tasting note description has virtually nothing to do with the presence of minerals in any soil or wine. It's a term that people use to sound sophisticated, like using the term "robe" instead of "color". I usually try to avoid those people.

Iron is found almost everywhere. It can exist in 2 main forms, one with a +2 charge and one with at +3 charge, known as "ferric" or "ferrous" respectively.  Whether it's available or not depends  a lot on soil pH, and soils that are rather alkaline, like limestone soils, tend to bind up the iron and in those soils you can actually have an iron deficiency, despite the presence of the element. Actually, pH has a lot to do with what is or is not available, which is why you can't simply look at a vineyard and say since it's got minerals, you can taste those minerals in your wine. That is NOT what happens.

Unless you're a wine writer or blogger and then you can go on about "minerality" and associated BS.

Some flavors are exactly the flavors they remind us of. For example, the bell pepper or green pepper notes that you can find in Merlot or Cab Sauv are caused by exactly the same molecule that causes them in those very peppers. Same with some of the vanilla notes you find sometimes, or with some of the strawberry flavors you find in Garnacha. However, when people taste what they describe as iron, and I have tasted exactly that, 99.999% of the time it's not really iron per se. You do get metallic notes, iodine notes, even graphite. You're not tasting calcium, manganese, halides, or anything of the sort. Generally what people are describing is a combination of acids and tannins and other flavor and sensory compounds that create a taste the person imagines as a piece of iron or a bit of limestone. 

It doesn't mean you're not experiencing those things, it's just that the experience has nothing to do with minerals. That's why you can use the descriptions if you're a wine writer - some people think it makes you sound cool. It just has nothing to do with reality.

I think if you describe something as "iron" or iron-like, people will get the idea. That is a FAR better description, because it's specific, than saying something has "great minerality", which is basically poetic license, or put more euphemistically, BS.


Reply by outthere, Mar 5, 2013.

Come on Greg, quit beating around the bush and tell us how you really feel!

Reply by amour, Mar 6, 2013.

Very interesting perspectives...not much else I can say at this point!  Thanks all!

Keep writing!

Reply by zufrieden, Mar 6, 2013.

I must remember to take my robe off when describing colour.  Point taken, however, in that one's "robe" is best left in France


Reply by zufrieden, Mar 6, 2013.

For the record, iron can indeed emerge as a flavour in wine.  I recently had a Golan Heights wine of reputable provenance  made with Cabernet Sauvignon with such qualities.  It seemed odd but then one comment reported iron as a flavour in some wines made by Musar of Lebanon - which I have tried on many occasions without noticing this quality, but who knows?  Anyway, it is not "minerality"; the only time I would stoop to such a descriptive might be for some flinty Premier Cru Chablis from the right bank of the Serein...

As the great Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa has it, "I was more a genius in dreams than in life..."


Reply by fibo86, Mar 6, 2013.

Hey Anna when you are talking about iron do you mean a rusty thing or tasting similar to an iron tablet?

Reply by penguinoid, Mar 7, 2013.

GregT - I would have to put my hand up to being one of the people who use the term 'minerality' when talking about wine. I'm perfectly aware that, lovely though the image is, the grape vine doesn't take minerally flavours up through the roots directly into the vines. But certainly I do often taste a range of characters in wines where this is the only way I can think of describing them -- flinty, stony, wet rocks, minerally... They're not really things I've actually tasted, so it's hard to say where the mental association comes from. But then, I've never said my tasting notes are very good. I'm always doubtful how much help they'd be to anyone who isn't actually me.

I suspect that this 'minerally' characters might be something to do with particular combinations of acidity and reductiveness, but that's just a wild guess.

For what it's worth, the nearest I've got to actually tasting minerals is licking volcanic tuff rocks. Yes, really. It's apparently a good test to conclusively identify this type of rock. They have a distinctive saline taste. Best NOT doing this to lab specimens that have been sitting around in a lab for ten or twenty years, though. No way of knowing who's handled them previously...

Reply by arizan, Apr 4, 2013.

I agree with PENGUINOID that this "metallic" character may be a combination of reductiveness and acidity, I would add tannins, since I mostly perceive it in Bordeaux of lesser quality. It sometimes disappear on storage (years later) or by aerating the wine by multiple decanting and a few hours of rest. I have read this described as steel note.

It reminds me of the smell when you push the door of a workshop where steel was heated up by machining, or a cutting torch. Maybe Anna is thinking of such solutions as one has to drink in case of anemia. To try if you see such a "medicine" around

Back to Categories

Top Contributors This Month

127503 Snooth User: rckr1951
29 posts
847804 Snooth User: EMark
22 posts
2206169 Snooth User: Snoother 2206169
2206169Snoother 2206169
21 posts


View All

Snooth Media Network