What is Acidity in wine used for?

Think about the role lemon juice plays in a gin and tonic, your fried fish or even homemade guacamole. This dose of acidity enhances the other flavors and creates harmony for your palate.

Without acidity , the wine would become flat and heavy, without any relief. That's what acid does so well : it balances flavors . (see also our article on the Balance of wine )

A wine is qualitative when the levels of acid, tannins , sugars and alcohol are balanced in relation to each other. Acidity is also an essential and natural preservative.

Where does the acidity of a wine come from?

Wine contains many acids, but the main two found naturally in grapes are tartaric and malic acid. But what are the different factors that influence the total acidity of a wine?

  • The grape variety : The grape variety will also have an impact due to its genetics. If we take the same level of ripening of a grape. Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc generate more acidity than a Viognier for example.

  • Climate : Grapes grown in cooler climates generally contain higher acidity because there is less heat and sun available to increase the sugar levels and lower the acidity of the grapes.

  • Harvest date : Unripe grapes have high acid levels, but this decreases as they ripen. The winegrower has the choice of picking his grapes earlier or earlier during the harvest, which will have an influence on the acidity of the grapes.

  • The winemaking process : A winemaker can increase acidity by adding tartaric acid to grape juice before fermentation. The process is common in warmer climates where the grapes may become overripe and the acidity level too low. Winemakers may also experience the opposite problem, in which the wine is too acidic. To overcome this, wine producers use a process called malolactic fermentation. This mechanism converts malic acid, which is very acidic, into milder lactic acid.

Acidity in the mouth

Acidity is the “salivation” that we feel in the mouth, on the sides of the tongue. It's what makes a wine refreshing , what makes your tongue salivate and tempts you to take another sip. The easiest way to think of acidity is to think of a glass of lemonade. That salivation you feel when you drink lemonade, combined with the freshness of the lemonade, is sourness. 

Words that define Acidity

When someone says a wine is crisp , crisp , or fresh , what they are really saying is that the wine has high acidity, just as they would say that a citrus drink tastes fresh and fresh. invigorating. If the acidity is too high, in this case we will say that the wine is green and nervous . Conversely, if the wine lacks acidity, we will say that it is flat , soft and heavy . You will have understood, it's all a question of balance...

What is the pH of wine?

Acidity is measured scientifically on the pH scale: lower pH indicating higher acid levels while higher pH means lower acidity. For comparison, white vinegar has a pH around 2.5, while milk is around 6.5. Typically, a wine's pH level ranges between 3 to 4. Acidity provides some of the backbone needed for long-term aging, so highly acidic wines are more likely to improve over time than those which contain less.

What is Volatile Acidity?

Volatile acidity is the sum of acids present in wine, capable of "flying" or "evaporating" easily. Acetic acid is the component most often found at the origin of this phenomenon. It is present in all wines in moderate quantities but when it is too high, it is considered a wine defect and gives off unpleasant aromas such as nail polish or vinegar.

Acidity and food & wine pairings

When pairing food and wine, it is useful to first take into account the tastes found in a dish (sweet, sour, bitter, salty, fatty, umami, etc.). The objective is to pair a dish with a wine that will complement or contrast with these flavors. When you play with acidity, you'll notice that sweet, salty, and fat balance out the acidity. This is why Champagne and Brie go together so well (acidity + fat and salt). Another pairing would be to complement the dish with its flavors such as a Sauvignon blanc and a platter of oysters, which accompany the iodine and the acidity of the lemon juice.

To conclude on this chapter, Acidity is an essential lever for the balance of a wine provided that it is well dosed. Without it, our tongue would surf on a flat and featureless wine. Too present, it produces spicy wines that are not very well received by your stomach....

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