You often hear the term “acidity” or “acid” on the puckered lips of your wine guzzling friends, but what does it actually mean and why are acidity driven wines suddenly all the rage? Acidity is defined as that pucker or bright bite you experience on your palate, reminiscent of a fresh squeeze of lemon – think about the sensation you get from drinking a fresh squeezed glass of lemonade. That’s acidity.
When acidity is truly taken advantage of by the winemaker, it’s the player inside the wine that makes everything else come into balance. Think about how a spritz of lemon brings out the flavors in food, similar to a dash of salt. That’s what acid does as well. When it’s absent, the wine can be flat, flabby or overly heavy. And that’s not good. A wine is in balance when all of its four main traits – acidity, tannin, sweetness, alcohol – are aligned. Too much sugar and the acid is muted, too much acid and the wine is harsh. Harmony is key.
So what to drink if you want to understand what acidity is all about? Here are two reds and two whites to try:
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Gamay, which hails from the Beaujolais region of Burgundy, is a light, bright wine that is a perfect example of how acidity truly livens up a wine. Common flavors found in Gamay are fresh ripe strawberries, cherries and raspberries. A great experiment is to buy a pint of fresh strawberries and eat them while enjoying the wine. You’ll immediately recognize the acid present in both.
Pinot Noir us another red wine that’s known for its acidity, depending on where it was made. This is because in warmer climates, such as California, the grapes can become so ripe that the acidity is less pronounced. For the acid to truly come through, the ideal climate for Pinot is cooler, so grab a bottle from Oregon, the Finger Lakes or Burgundy to see what acidity is all about.
Hailing from the country of Spain, Albariño is the definition of an acidity driven white wine. Vibrant and refreshing, Albariño is the wine you want to have with fresh shellfish like oysters, clams and shrimp. For a great example of the wine, look for bottles that hail from Rias Biaxas. These wines have wonderful acidity along with a nice salinity that make it insanely refreshing.
If you’re a lover of white wine, it’s incredibly likely that you’ve enjoyed Sauvignon Blanc specifically due to its acidity. When served cold, this wine is as refreshing as a cool glass of lemonade on a summer’s day, with just the right amount of pucker. However the wine can be lower in acid if it’s grown in a warmer climate – we’re looking at you California – so stick to New Zealand, White Bordeaux and Sancerre to truly experience this acidity driven varietal.