Around twenty years ago a new word to describe the taste and aroma of some wines was born: minerality. Research conducted by the UMR CSGA (Center for Taste and Feeding  Behaviour, Dijon , Francia) aimed to understand from where this word came, what it corresponds to, how to define it and if this sensation is linked to specific chemical molecules found in the wine. 
Minerality is one of the most intriguing descriptors amongst a variety of “poorly defined” wine descriptors. The media in general has turned minerality into a pool of speculation. This has caused a lot of confusion around this concept and it has sparked the curiosity of various researchers that would like to try and define it.
There is a social representation of this descriptor, that varies according to the social group concerned. The concept of “social representation” allows for a better understanding of individuals and groups, by analyzing the way in which they represent themselves, others, objects and the world in general. 
Researchers at the CSGA used a theory from social psychology, the “central nucleus theory”, proposed by Jean Claude Abric in 1976. This approach is based on a system with four different representative zones, one of which is called the central nucleus, which generates a sense of representation and determines the relationships between the various elements. The elements of the central nucleus are those that characterize the social object and without them the representation is not the same. The peripheral elements complement the social representation but are not as important in its definition. 
In the study the researchers worked with two groups: forty Chablis wine producers and forty-seven consumers. By using an open question (“When we speak of minerality, what comes to mind?”), they asked the participants to indicate some words and attribute them a score on an importance scale of 1 (not important) to 10 (very important). By using these two bits of information (frequency of citation and level of importance) they arrived at a representation structure. 
The results showed that amongst producers, the central nucleus is composed of elements of geological origin (Chablis, geology, terroir) and sensory descriptors (freshness, calcareous and oysters), whereas amongst the consumers, only one element evoked geology: terroir. In the other representation zones of the consumers, it is possible to find elements that relate to the sensory dimension. However the range of this representation is less notable in the consumer group than in the producer group.
Finally, this study showed that consumers and producers shared a common representation in terms of the local character of the origin of the minerality concept (terroir), it was collectively noted. The sensory aspect seems to be more important for the producers than the consumers, which reveals a collective social reasoning amongst consumers. 
Currently no link between a particular molecule and minerality has been found. However, minerality seems to be the result of an interaction of various sensations (taste, aroma, mouthfeel, etc), which transforms the word into a multidimensional sensory descriptor. It would be interesting to link chemical molecules found in the wine to the different sensations perceived by the tasters. 
Heber Rodrigues, Jordi Ballester, Maria Pilar Saenz-Navajas, Dominique Valentin; Structural approach of social representation: Application to the concept of wine minerality in experts and consumers; Food Quality and Preference, Volume 46, December 2015, Pages 166–172