Welcome to another edition of Wine WTFs! In this series we’ll explore wine terms and ideas and try to figure out what the fuss is all about. Last time we talked about wtf the deal is with tannins.
You drink it in your coffee and your coke. You love it in your salads and sometimes even clean your house with it.
You’ve heard of it in the context of wine, but aren’t quite sure you know what it means, much less how to identify it.
Seriously, wtf is acidity?
What acidity is
Acidity is a naturally occuring feature of grapes. As grapes ripen they lose (some) acidity and gain sugar, but some acid stays and becomes part of the wine.
There are a few different kinds of acids that are common in wine.
- Tartaric acid, which plays a big role in stabilizing wines and is why some wines look like they have crystals in the bottle/glass or on the cork
- Malic acid, which often gives wines a green apple note
- Lactic acid, which has a creamy/milky flavour, and is the product of malolactic fermentation (the conversion of malic acid to lactic acid)
What acidity tastes like
This shouldn’t come as a surprise if you’ve ever had something pickled – acidity in wine tastes sour!
More specifically, it’s the tartness or puckering effect when you take a sip. If you mouth waters after you sip (or sometimes even smell!) a wine – that’s the acidity jumping up to meet you.
Acidity helps keep wines tasting bright, even over time. This is why acidity is a key factor in a wine’s age-ability. Without acidity a wine will start to taste flat, or ‘flabby’.
Sometimes other things (like sweetness) are also found in the wine, which can make the acidity a bit less obvious. In fact, acidity is the secret weapon of notoriously sweet wines like Sauternes and icewine. Without acidity these wines would be too sweet for even the sweetest of sweet-tooths to handle!
Acidity in wine
Acidity is found in virtually every wine, whether you taste it or not.
Some wines with high acidity include sauvignon blanc (think gooseberry and ‘cat pee’), Riesling, Albariño, and (surprise!) Cabernet Sauvignon.
Wines with lower acidity include Chardonnay (except Chablis), Viognier, Gewurztraminer, and Merlot. If a wine tastes mellow, rich, or (in the case of Gewurz) oily, it’s a good sign that it has lower acidity.
Again though, you want acidity in wine because it keeps other things, like sweetness and tannin, in check. I don’t think you’ll ever find a no-acid wine.
How do you feel about acidity in wine?