Understanding Acidity in Wine

The word “acidity” is often used when describing wines, and for good reason: acidity is one of the four basic characteristics of wine (the other four are sweetness, tannins, and alcohol). Do you know how acidity plays a fundamental role in a wine’s flavor profile?

What is acidity in wine?

Acid is often overlooked when sampling wine. The next time you taste a wine–whether it be white, red, sparkling, or rosé–take a moment to notice the acidity on your palate and how long this acidity lingers. Acidity is what makes your mouth pucker; it is the tartness that makes a wine refreshing.

The level of sweetness in a wine can affect acidity. As sweetness increases, it takes over acidity on the palate, making it seem less prevalent. As an example, consider plain lemon juice and lemonade. The amount of acid might not change between plain lemon juice and lemonade, but the sugar changes the effect of citric acid on your palate.

Lemonade is the perfect example of how sweetness and acidity work together to create a delicious combination of sweet and sour flavors.

Pairing wines and food based on acidity

Since sweetness significantly affects the sensation of acidity in wine, it is important to think of when pairing wines with food. Other factors to consider are the sourness, bitterness, saltiness, fat, and umami of a dish. Which of these does the dish have, and in what quantities? In addition to sweetness, saltiness and fat also work well with acidity (which is why Champagne and French fries are known as being a classic and delicious combo!).

Have you ever wondered why cheese and wine go so well together? The fat content of the cheese pairs perfectly with the acidity in wine.

The benefits of acidity when aging wines

Acidity is also important when considering which wines will age well. While wines age, acidity helps to preserve the wine longer. A wine with little acidity may have a shorter shelf life than wines with higher levels: keep this in mind when sampling wines that you plan on aging, and recognize that a wine’s acidity will mellow as it is cellared.

Factor in acidity when purchasing wines for aging.

Climate and acidity

Why do some wines have more acidity than others? Climate plays a large role in a wine’s acidity. When they are green, grapes have very high levels of acidity. As the grapes ripen and develop higher levels of sugar, the acidity becomes balanced. If grapes ripen too much as a result of high temperatures, the acidity can be lessened (which is not ideal). Regions with cooler nighttime temperatures or shorter growing seasons typically have grapes that ripen slower and retain higher levels of acidity. However, these regions pose other risks: the cooler temperatures could keep grapes from ever reaching desired levels of ripeness, which could lead to wines that are overly herbaceous or tart.

Would you like to learn a little more about acidity in wine? Consider trying one of Quigley Fine Wine’s Spanish or Italian white wines. Each exudes the perfect balance of acidity, body, and complexity.

Climate plays a key role in the acidity levels of grapes and the subsequent wines.

2017 Pazo de Corga Albarino

2017 Roero Arneis Donna Costanza