Understanding acidity in wine
Acids are one of 4 fundamental traits in wine (the others are tannin, alcohol and sweetness). Acidity gives wine its tart and sour taste. Fundamentally speaking, all wines lie on the acidic side of the pH spectrum and most range from 2.5 to about 4.5 pH (7 is neutral). There are several different types of acids found in wine which will affect how acidic a wine tastes. The most prevalent acids found in wine are tartaric acid, malic acid, and citric acid.
How to taste acidity in wine
Sit for a minute and imagine yourself tasting lemonade and pay attention to how your mouth puckers just from thinking about it. This sensation is how our mouths anticipate the acidity in lemonade. The next time you taste wine, pay attention to this specific puckering sensation. After tasting several wines, you’ll create a mental benchmark of where the acidity hits your palate and you’ll also begin to notice that some wines (such as Riesling) tend to have higher acidity than others.
Acidity in wine is important
As much as modern health has demonized acidic foods, acidity is an essential trait in wine that’s necessary for quality. Great wines are in balance with their 4 fundamental traits (Acidity, tannin, alcoholand sweetness) and as wines age, the acidity acts as a buffer to preserve the wine longer. For example, ice wines which have both high acidity and sweetness will age several decades.
How climate plays into acidity in wine
Acidity is a perfect example of one of the fundamental taste traits that are affected by different climates(warm vs cool).
When wine grapes are still green they have very high acidity. As they ripen, the acidity tapers down and the sweetness increases. The perfect moment, of course, is when the grape is perfectly sweet, ripe, and still possessing enough acidity to make great wine. This is where climate comes in. A region that produces wines with naturally higher acidity will have either cooler nighttime temperatures or a shorter growing season. The cool nights and cold weather stops the grapes from losing their acidity. In a region with a shorter growing season, there’s also the possibility that the grapes never quite get ripe enough, which results in both more tart and more herbaceous tasting wines.