For some people, the acidity is the most sought after quality in a good glass of wine. It enhances the fresh, crispness that people love about wine, cuts through the fattiness of a rich meal and allows wine to be successfully paired with many foods. Because of this, many winemakers seek to create more acid and many consumers seek varietals that provide it.
pH vs Total Acid
The acid content in any substance is typically expressed in pH. A lower pH is indicative of a higher acidity. A good table wine typically falls between 3.3 and 3.7. A pH greater than 4 is considered unsafe and one lower than 2.9 creates a harsh, bitter wine that is considered unpalatable.
Acidity in wine is also measured in total acid. This measures the tartaric acid per 100 grams of wine. Typically, it falls between 0.4 percent and 1.0 percent.
Tartaric Acid and Malic Acid
Acidity, in wine, comes primarily from two compounds. These are tartaric acid and malic acid. The third acid, known as citric acid, occurs in much more limited quantities. In order to make wine more acidic, winemakers sometimes add tartaric acid to the wine.
When seeking a wine with acidity, white varietals are typically valued over reds. This is because of a process called malolactic fermentation. This process lowers the acidity and creates a new depth of flavor. Due to their nature, red wine automatically goes through this process. White wines, however, can be put through this process or not, based on the preference of the winemaker.
Another factor that affects the amount of acid in the wine is the climate in which the grapes were grown. Colder climates produce grapes that are more acidic while warmer climates produce sweeter grapes. In addition, differences in soil pH, local regulations and other factors will affect the overall acidity. For example, wine that come from California is likely to be less acidic than wine from France.
Acidic wines pair well with fried foods and other fatty foods as well as rich desserts. Acidic red wines with bold tannins pair well with steaks and other meat dishes. Also, acidic foods need acidic wine. Anything that uses lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, tomato sauce or other acidic foods pair well with wine that contains a high acid content.
Examples of Acidity from the AYZA Wine List
High in Acidity: Sauvignon Blanc – Fleur Du Cap stellenbosch 2011 South Africa
Moderate Acidity: Torrontes – Astica Mendoza 2011 Argentina
Medium Minus Acidity: Vouvray – D.De Vaufuget Loire Valley 2011 France
How to Select
When selecting an acidic wine, look first for a white wine from a cool location. Red wines, especially those from Italy and France, can also contain considerable acid. Check for a low pH and a high overall acid content.
Acidic wine, like the crisp bite of a granny smith apple, will cleanse the palate and get the diner ready for the rest of the meal. While balancing the other aspects of the wine is important, the clear, crisp acidity is what people crave in a good glass of wine. In addition, acidity allows a wine to pair well with a variety of dishes.