Guide to Wine

Wine Acidity & Crispness

White Wine

The acidity of a wine is one of its most appealing characteristics, enhancing its refreshing, crisp qualities as well as enabling wines to be paired with foods so successfully. Acidity complements foods in a palate-cleansing, refreshing manner. The acidity is usually tasted as soon as it comes into contact with the sides of your tongue, similar to biting into a cold Granny Smith apple. Cooler growing climates produce wines higher in tartaric and malic acid, so a Chardonnay from Burgundy will have a higher acidity level than California Chardonnay.

In general, white wines exhibit more acidity than red wines. Acidity gives wine its crispness on the palate. A dry wine needs good levels of acid to provide liveliness and balance; sweet wine needs acidity so it does not seem cloying. Too much acidity will make the wine seem harsh or bitter; too little and the wine will seem flabby and dull. During the first 15 to 30 seconds after a wine is swallowed, the acidity should gradually begin to fade. Lighter-style red wines may have high acidity, while heavier-bodied red wines tend to have low acidity.

An important point to remember is that your perception of acidity, as with other flavor components in wine, should not be considered independently. Sweetness and acidity, for example, balance each other. A wine high in acidity that also has a bit of sweetness will seem less acidic. Tannin and acidity, on the other hand, seem to reinforce each other. A big, tannic red that is also high in acidity will seem even more tannic and/or acidic. Some wines that are commonly associated with higher levels of acidity are New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Champagne, Loire Valley wines such as Sancerre and Vouvray, along with the white wines of Alsace and Germany. Red wine examples may be found in the wines of Beaujolais, Burgundy and the lighter Italian wines such as Sangiovese, Valpolicella and Chianti.

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