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How To Speak Wine: What Is Acidity, Anyway?

Pull up a chair, wine school is back in session! Today's lesson in wine speak: acidity!


In most cases, acid isn’t a good thing. Acid reflux, acid rain and acid-washed jeans are all the pits. In food and wine, we want it, because it’s the thing that keeps us coming back for more. Acidity also contributes to the aging capacity of a wine, preserving both color and flavor. Acid receptors are located on the outer sides of our tongues and, when heavily stimulated, cause our cheeks to pucker, our eyes to twitch and our mouths to water.

A wine grape starts its life as a bud full of acid compounds. As it sits in the sun, its acids convert to sugars, ripening into an edible fruit. The more sunshine the grape sees in its life on the vine, the sweeter it will be. Generally speaking, grapes grown in cooler climates retain more acidity than the sun-soaked grapes grown in warmer climates.

A dry wine without acidity is dull and lifeless. Dubbed “flabby” in wine speak, it clumsily flops around in your mouth until you manage to choke it down. A sweet wine without acidity would be as cloying as doing a shot of maple syrup. (That's actually not a bad idea...)

Acidity is food’s best friend, serving as a palate cleanser for the fats and proteins that coat our tongues while eating. Sometimes a wine that’s too acidic on its own, sings once it’s at the dinner table.

Down with pucker? Try Gruet’s Sauvage Sparkler, this electric Sauvignon Blanc or this Austrian-inspired red from Long Island. Want a mellower bev? Try this almost creamy Chardonnay or this velvety Red Zinfandel.

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