Share this article
Wines are acidic because all wine grapes have acid in them.
According to Master of Wine Amy Christine, acidity is the level of tartness in wine. Acidity has two effects in the mouth once you swallow the wine. First, it causes a prickling sensation on the sides of the tongue, second, it results in a mouth-watering aftertaste. Significantly, the total quantity and type of acids present in the wine determine the sensation’s intensity.
Acidic Wines: Types & Levels of Acid In Wine
There are three primary acids in wine grapes, including Tartaric, Malic, and Citric. These acids are present in the grape during harvesting, through fermentation and end up in the finished wine product. Besides the primary acids, wine also contains small quantities of lactic, acetic, succinic and organic acids.
Significantly, there is a relationship between climate and the level of acidity in the grapes. Specifically, grapes growing in regions with cool climates have high levels of acid because of the slower ripening process. For example, the award-winning acidic white wine Vavasour Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2017, is a good example of a cool climate wine.
Grapes growing in warm regions have low acid levels and high sugar levels, for example, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. To ensure there is a good balance between the acid and sugar levels, winemakers sometimes add acid to the wine.
Time of harvest also determines acidity levels, because the grapes have high acid levels just before their color changes. For instance, to make high acidic wines like Champagne, winemakers harvest the grapes when they are under-ripe.
Having trouble identifying flavors in wine? Learn about The Wine Aroma Wheel!
Accordingly, high acidic red wines have a stable deep red color, while the low acidic wines have less stable colors.
The Benefits of Acidity In Wine
Acids are important both in the winemaking process and in the wine. To understand the value of acids, first, you must know the role played by the essential acids.
1) Tartaric Acid
The most important acid during winemaking, it helps to maintain the chemical stability and color of the wine. Also, tartaric acid largely influences the taste of the finished wine by introducing a harsh and tart component into the wine.
2) Malic Acid
This acid is essential in maintaining the health and sustainability of the grapevine. During winemaking, particularly malolactic fermentation, it turns into lactic acid. In wine, it tastes like green apples, is crisp and refreshing.
3) Citric Acid
Grapes have very little quantities of this acid, and when present in wine, it tastes like lemon or lime.
4) Lactic Acid
During winemaking, this acid helps turn crisp, young-tasting wine into creamy wines. Wine producers commonly use Lactic acid to produce Chardonnay.
5) Succinic Acid
This sweet and fruity acid is a by-product of fermentation, mainly found at high levels in red wines.
In detail, acidity in wine is important since it;
Balances and Enhances The Natural Flavor Of Wine
Tannin, sweetness, alcohol, and acidity are the four fundamental traits of wine. Therefore, to make an excellent wine, wine producers must balance the four fundamental traits. Consequently, winemakers use acidity to create the balance and enhance the flavor of the wine. For example, an overly sweet wine requires some acidity to make it more lively and enjoyable. Also, acidity helps to create the refreshing and lively punch in acidic white wines.
It’s important to note that the ideal acid content in wine ranges from 0.55% – 0.85%. Sour wines have an acid content that is higher than 0.85% and a little amount of residual sugar. Furthermore, because tannin and acidity reinforce each other, high levels of both, also result in sour wines.
Preserves and Stabilizes The Color Of Wine
Wine grapes develop color through ionization, and the level of acidity in the grape helps to determine the color. Accordingly, high acidic red wines have a stable deep red color, while the low acidic wines have less stable colors. Eventually, the low acidic red wines develop murky brown/red colors, while low acidic white wine develops a slight brown tint.
Enhances the Effectiveness Of Sulfur Dioxide
Sulfur dioxide a by-product of fermentation is very important in wine because it prevents wine from spoilage and getting rotten. Bacteria cannot survive in acidic environments, so unwanted bacteria do not attack acidic wines. As a result, acidity in wine helps enhance the effectiveness of Sulfur dioxide.
Enhances the Wine’s Ability To Age
The acidity in wines acts as a buffer that helps preserve the wine longer. For example, wines that are high in acidity and residual sugar, like Sauternes and Bordeaux, can age for decades. On the other hand, low acidic wines like the Californian Chardonnay don’t age as well.
In conclusion, to gauge the acid levels in wine, don’t consider the acidity independently, look at the other wine traits. For instance, sweetness and acidity, these two traits balance each other. Consequently, wine high in acidity levels and a bit of sweetness seems less acidic, for example, the award-winning Cadis, Amarone della Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy, 2015.