Wine 101-Acidity

Ever sucked on a lemon or eaten a sour candy? That tartness is considered acidity! At first glance, acid doesn’t seem like something you’d necessarily want in your glass of wine. However, wines that lack acidity can feel flabby in your mouth and don’t pair as well with food. Higher acid wines are tart, bright, and exceptionally food-friendly. 

Acidity adds tartness to a wine and is often described as lively, vivacious, bright, perky, zippy, vivid, crisp, and even bracing, tense and nervy. Wines with higher acid levels better complement most dishes.

Generally speaking,
grapes grown in
cooler climates
produce wines with
high acid and lower
sugar levels. And
those grown in
warmer climates
become wines with
lower acid levels
and higher sugar
content.

Both red and white grapes have natural acids in their fruit and skins. Grapes grown in regions where temperatures drop significantly after the sun goes down have higher levels of acidity. That temperature difference is called a diurnal shift. The daytime heat increases the grapes’ sugar content and the cool nights increase the acidity levels. The greater the diurnal shift, the higher the natural acidity will be in the wine.    

If you’re familiar with Italian wines, you’ve seen a DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) or DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) label on the bottle. DOCG regions are located at higher elevations and often on steep slopes. The wines from designated DOCG areas are more desirable, cost more, and have higher levels of acidity. 

Acidity drew me
to Oregon and
our wines!

I must confess that I sucked on my fair share of lemons as a kid and can honestly say that I’ve never tasted a wine with too much acid. Much of Oregon, Idaho, and all of Washington state sit at least halfway between the equator and the North pole. This allows for greater diurnal shifts. In the summer, highs can reach over 100° F, and then temperatures can drop down to the 40s and 50s at night. Temperature swings of 50° and more help to retain the natural grape acidity that develops over the growing season. 

If you’re not familiar with Pacific Northwest wines, I encourage you to try some with your meals. I’m confident you’ll begin to understand and taste acidity while also developing your wine palate! And if you’re already a lover of Northwest wines, what are some of your favorites?

If you have questions or suggestions, please leave a comment!
Don’t miss our other Wine 101 articles:

Wine 101: Wine terms explained, Mouthfeel

Wine 101: Bubbles… explained, part one

Wine 101: Bubbles… explained, part two

Wine 101: Bubbles… explained, part three

Wine 101: Wine Bottle sizes and names

Wine 101: Use Your Words

Wine 101: Smell & Memory

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About the Author: Michele Francisco

Michele Francisco, a founder and regular contributor to Winerabble, a blog primarily about Pacific Northwest wines, is living the dream in Portland, Oregon. Her passion leads some to believe she's got wine running through her veins. Contact Michele at michele@winerabble.com & be sure to visit her online portfolio at www.michelefrancisco.com.

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