The importance of acidity in wines

October 02, 2019 by French Corner Cellars

A while back, my colleague and I were tasting through a wine list of a new establishment to see how it paired with their menu items. We chose food across and array of styles and weight, so as to give all the wines a fair shake. The wine buyer had a small list that geared towards the new world.  As we sat down and perused the drink menu, we expected their picks to have the balance a small list needs - enough fruit to enjoy on their own, with enough acidity and tannins to pair well with the consumables.

We got one half of those expectations fulfilled.

To be fair there was one wine on the list of nine that had what we were looking for – a sauvignon blanc from the area of Limoux in the Languedoc region with mouthwatering acidity, balanced fruit, and the perfect amount of grassy, citrus notes. It was a bit over chilled, but nevertheless clean, crisp, and surprisingly affordable. It paired well with the lighter fare, and gave us hope for the other pours. As we went on to the second, third, and fourth offerings however, we noticed an unsettling trend: the wines were flabby, sweet, obviously from an industrial winery, far too warm, and aside from one Californian Cabernet with ample oak, almost indiscernible from one another.

Wine consultants do their best to steer the buyers in a direction that gives their list the most potential for menu pairing, option for consuming without food, and overall style that fits with the restaurant itself. Results vary from a high rate of success in metro areas, to a significantly lessened impact in less wine-savvy regions – where the inclination for bringing in finer wines clashes with knowledge level (or lack thereof), of the buyers and their clients. In the aforementioned places, bright, lively wines served at proper temperature are less understood and accepted when compared to their sweet, juicy, viscous, mouth-coating counterparts whose temperature is either ice-cold or room temperature. Then there is the experience of the overly-chilled weighty red wine, where you wait for it to warm up so you can taste more than just tannins. The work can be as frustrating as it is rewarding, so always try to appreciate your local wine geek.

Speaking of which, for every group of less-informed wine folk there are always a few individuals who appreciate and seek out wines of a higher caliber, and look to help others discover them. People who know that success in increasing an individual’s pallet lays not in shoving one’s preferences in their faces, but to help guide them to the bigger picture of what is available. It is very easy to remain in the rut of value-oriented round ‘cookie-cutter’ wines, but with the introductions of labels crafted with more care and passion, you find that many people have simply never been exposed to a more serious style of wine. Much of that new exposure comes with tasting something with more structure, brighter acidity, lower sugar, and served at a proper temperature.  Acidity in particular plays a key role in the wine tasting and pairing experience. It is all about matching the level of Ph between your food and wine. Acidity is to be found in all types of wines from sweet to bold reds. Often referred as crispness, it contributes to balance the food and clean the palate. The absence of acidity in a wine, will emphasize the weight of it and make it flabby and less enjoyable.

When comes the time to open a wine knowing its level of acidity will help you select the proper serving temperature. Indeed, the general rule is to reduce the service temperature as the wine has a higher acidity. The lower temperature will contribute to reduce the perception of the acidity. As an example, a sauvignon blanc from the Marlborough region will always be served at a lower temperature than a Californian chardonnay. Similarly, on the red a Chianti will always be a touch chillier than a Bordeaux from the left bank.

To serve the versatility of needs for different serving temperature, Avintage offers multi-temperature wine cabinets. Our Evolution and Revolution range will always have a space for your wine was it a sweet Tokaj or a voluptuous Cab from St Helena in the Napa Valley!