Somm In The City – Acid Freak


I like acid.

Like might be too soft a word. On a hot summer day, nothing says refreshing like a glass of bright and fresh wine with acidity so sharp you could shave with it.

Not only is it wonderful to drink, but it is also very important and often misunderstood.

Acidity plays an important role in wine, contributing to both the aging process and in keeping the wine refreshing and balanced.

Even though acidity is one of the most important components for aging, many people often confuse it with something that would cause great discomfort. They may think an acidic wine will be tart or sour, but will happily order a glass of Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. People like a bright and refreshing style of wine, but the word acid seems to have a bad reputation.

There is acid in many fruits, making the sweetness palatable and refreshing. Imagine drinking a strong solution of sugar and water. Thick and sweet right? Add some acid to the solution and it will help mitigate the sweetness and balance the drink. Or, the reverse: go suck on a lemon for a while and see how that feels. Now take a sip of that sugar solution. Much better? Thought so.

Acid also helps in the ageability of wine. Some wines are built to age while others are made for early or quick consumption. Wines that have big fruit flavours and high acidity are generally ready to drink after a few years in the bottle. The acid softens out and the wine becomes bigger and more full bodied. If you are lucky enough to try an aged Montrachet (white Burgundy) and can come down from Cloud Nine, you will understand how the acidity softens and becomes rich and round with time. At least that is the case with white wines. Reds, in the other glass, become lighter after years in the bottle. The acid and fruit combination gradually lessen.

Of course there are many other factors that give the great age worthy wines such intense aromas after years in the bottle, but the balance of fruit and acid must be there.

If you are looking to try some crisp, refreshing wines with high acidity, reach for Riesling from Clare Valley, Australia. Here in BC, Orofino and Tantalus are top of the game when it comes to refreshing, brisk acidity in Riesling.

A brief word on Riesling please. Riesling was given a bad name by wines such as Black Tower and Blue Nun. Truth be known, they were not even Riesling, but another grape named Müller-Thurgau. Riesling is by far one of the best grapes with which to “taste a vineyard.” There is often very little a winemaker will do with it other than ferment it and bottle it. Riesling is one of the highest in acidity when picked and produces some of the longest living, age worthy wines. And remember, not all Riesling is sweet. I repeat, not all Riesling is sweet!

As the weather turns from warm to cool, a great transition from white to red are the lighter style wines from Beaujolais or some of the reds from Loire. The Gamay Noir grape in Beaujolais and Cabernet Franc grape of Loire are both high in acidity and add a very classy touch to any table. Served slightly chilled they are perfect for autumn nights in wool sweaters.

Another great red wine that hinges on high acidity is Sangiovese, the main grape used in Tuscany’s Chianti and Brunello. These brighter reds match most foods perfectly and once the cold nights have set in, makes for a perfect combination for rich braised meats.

Don’t be afraid of acid, it is a good thing. Try a glass of something bright and refreshing today.

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