With this post I will start a new series where we will learn about the different elements in wine.
The basic elements in wine are six: acidity, tannins, body, alcohol, fruit and sweetness. Today we will analyze one of my favorites: acidity! Yes, I have a confession to make I’m an acidity freak :) I think it has to do my maternal Turkish ancestry, my mother used to put lemons and limes in her cooking and I think that was enough for me. These days, I still prefer to use lemons instead of vinegar in all my salad dressings and on the old days that I used to drink diet coke… I also had it with slice of lemon or lime.
So, what is so special about acidity? Acidity refreshes you, it cleanses your palate, it gives a wine its vibrancy and crispiness. Acidity will allow a wine to age for 20 or more years, because it preserves and stabilizes wine. It is what makes us go for a second sip. Besides being a key element in wine, you will notice its absence immediately, since a wine without acidity, tastes flat, boring and tired. Three types of acid can be found in wine: malic, citric and tartaric, all three come from the grapes, but tartaric can also be added to the wine (especially in warm climate regions).
High acid wines are naturally made in cool climate regions, where we find moderate temperatures, cool nights and shorter growing seasons. As a grape matures, its sugar content increases and its acidity decreases, it is important to find the perfect balance before the harvest. Sugar is after all, what gives alcohol to any wine, and alcohol what gives body to any wine, so wines with high acidity usually will be light to medium bodied and with alcohol levels (11-12.5 %), finally something that don’t make us drunk after one glass!
In warm climate regions, acidity can be achieved by harvesting the grapes earlier, a practice that is followed by some producers is to pick the fruit in different trips, a little early when acidity levels are still high, and then other later trips when the grapes have reached optimal ripeness. And of course by addition of tartaric acid. It's also important to check the vintages, the same wine will have more acid in cooler vintages than in warmer ones.
Beware that some grapes have more acidity than others: Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Grigio,Gruner Veltliner, Chardonnay, all make excellent and high acid wines. But, we can also find acidity in red grapes too: Barbera, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, etc. And of course acidity is important when making sparkling wines, in most appellations grapes for sparkling wines are picked earlier to secure enough acidity will be in the final product, acidity is what gives sparkling wines their elegance and finesse.
In your palate, acidity will be felt on both sides of your tongue, see picture below where is says “sour”, you will feel it as a prickly sensation, acidity will make you salivate too. Remember that in order to feel this you must swirl the wine through your tongue as you do with mouthwash and then swallow or spit the wine (like wine professionals do).
Best appellations to find wines with acidity: Carneros and Russian River in CA, Oregon (all appellations), Finger Lakes and Long Island, NY, all of Germany and Austria. Loire Valley (all appellations), Burgundy (especially appellations in the north), New Zealand (all appellations). North Italy appellations, etc.
So, isn’t it time to put acidity to the test? Here are a few recommendations:
Wolffer Chardonnay 2017 $15
Domaine Vincent Dampt Chablis 2017 $23
Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Kamptal Schlosskellerei 2017, $16
Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc 2017 $12
G.B. Burlotto Barbera d’Alba 2017 $24