Acidity is one of the most critical elements in both white and red wine and is crucial for balance and longevity in wine.
Acidity is a natural component in wine (and its grapes) that influences several aspects of the final product. Not only does it affect the taste, but also the balance, mouthfeel, and even ageability of the wine. Without acidity, most wines would be flat and unbalanced, and unfortunately, it is a dilemma we face due to climate change.
When tasting wine, the acidity is the fresh, tart feeling in the mouth, especially around the cheeks and jaw. While many think that if acidity is high, it automatically means sweetness is low. However, they are not dependent on each other, and some exceptionally sweet wines can still be acidic too.
Some grapes have naturally higher acidity than others, but many external factors influence a wine’s acidity levels. Some factors include the heat and sunlight of the area – which reduces the acidity in the grapes. The riper the grapes are, the less the acidity, which develops into more fruitiness and higher sugar in the grapes.
Wines can be overwhelmingly high in acidity in cooler regions, making them almost unbearable. In that case, winemakers will deacidify the wine by adding potassium or calcium carbonate, which removes acids. In other cases, where the acidity in wines is too low, winemakers can add either tartaric or malic acid to increase the acidity. This is often done when the grapes are harvested to ripe, and there is an unbalance in the grapes.
How Acidity Affects Your Wine
Acidity and PH are directly dependent on each other, so with high-acid wines, the PH levels will be lower and vice versa. And as mentioned, this can affect everything from the taste to the color and longevity of the wine.
In the case of red wines, if the acidity is high, the wines tend to be brighter in color since low PH levels contribute to the darker purple or blue hue. If the red wine’s acidity is lower, it can turn a brown color (especially with age) since lower PH wines are more susceptible to oxidation. That’s why wines that have higher acidity tend to age better since it protects the wine against oxidation and acts as a preservative. But that does not mean wines with a low PH are immune to oxidation; the chances are just lower.
When it comes to taste, you will find the crisp, refreshing feel with high acidity wines, whereas lower acidity gives the feeling of a rounder, fuller feeling. This is especially true of wines undergoing the process of malolactic fermentation, which converts malic acid (the natural acidity found in wines) to lactic acid (which is the same acid found in milk).
This conversion of acidity turns the crisp, light acidity into a rounder, fatter version. If you compare the taste of apple juice to milk, you will understand the difference between malic and lactic acid.
Climate Change and Acidity
Wine grapes are exceptionally sensitive and highly dependent on very specific conditions. Most grapes are planted in a particular region due to the area’s respective heat and sunlight (among other things). The area’s sunlight and heat allow for the perfect ratio of acidity, tannin, sugar, and PH. So global warming has significantly impacted these conditions, creating havoc in many wine regions and forcing wine producers to rethink their wines.
In Bordeaux, for instance, there are only a handful of grape varieties that have been permitted in the area for centuries. However, recently, the law allowed more grape varieties to compensate for the changing conditions.
While the issues in the vineyards are apparent now, there is no telling what the future will hold. While it is problematic for some wine regions, it has allowed other wine regions to surface that could never produce wines prior.
Without acidity, most wines would be flat and unbalanced, and unfortunately, it is a dilemma we face due to climate change.
Acidity is a crucial element of wine that affects every aspect, from the color to the taste and longevity.