Acidity is the measure of active acids and their concentration or strength levels in wine. The three prevalent acids in wine (tartaric, citric and malic) are responsible for the tart and sour taste experienced on a palate.
If a wine producer did not give information on the acidity levels or
alcoholic content of their product, one could determine the acidity levels
through titration or using a pH scale strip. These two might not be worth the
struggle since we do know that even though there are low-acidity wines in the
market, there is not a single one that is free of acidity.
pH is the measure of acidity in wine on a logarithmic scale that ranges
from number one to fourteen. Most wines fall between a scale of 2.5 and 4.5.
This is a clear indication that wines are generally acidic. pH and acidity have
a negative correlation. When the acidity is high, the pH is low and when the pH is high, the acidity is low.
For that reason, the most reliable and easy method of determining this is through the aftermath of wine taking. Some people take wine and experience heartburns shortly afterward. Heartburns can be irritating, and no one ever wishes to experience this burning sensation. Establishing its root cause and avoiding exposure to the same is often the probable permanent solution to it but does that mean people should permanently stay away from wine?
So, what exactly contributes to the
acidity in wine?
Some wines are known to contain more acidity than others. Riesling wines, like Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir, read higher acidity levels than other wines and this is greatly influenced by the grape varietals these wines are made from. This tells us that sometimes it is not about the process but the kind of grape a certain kind of wine is made from may determine its acidic nature.
The climatic conditions of a region also greatly determine the acidity levels of wine. Wines from warm climates are known to contain less acidic levels with high sugar levels compared to their cold region counterparts which are low in sugar yet very high in acidity.
The style and type of wine also play a major role in influencing the acidity levels in wine. White wines also are said to be on a higher acidity spectrum compared to red wines. During the production of red wines, grapes are normally fermented with their skin intact (to give rise to the red color in the wine). These grape skins are rich in a compound called Tannin which is often confused with acidity. Red wines are therefore richer in tannin content compared to white wines.
Ironically, sweet wines are higher in acidity compared to their table-wine
counterparts. The sweetness in the wine is often from the sugar that was added
during fermentation to counter its acidity. So, because the sugars are high,
acidity is also high and they both balance each other.
During the winemaking process, winemakers can influence the acidity levels of their final product. During fermentation, a winemaker can also influence the amount of acid wine will contain at the end of the process by subjecting some of these wines to shorter fermentation periods or allowing other wines to go through malolactic fermentation (which converts malic acid into lactic acid) and dilution of the same. Diluting wine could be done before its subjected to fermentation or after fermentation and just before bottling.
What of aged wines? Are they less in acidity than fresh/yon wines? For a
wine to age to a desirable palate, it needs a certain amount of acidity. Again,
the whole concept rotates around the desired end product.
One could then ask, why then not just produce acid-free wines and allow people to enjoy their drink without having to go through the heartburn/acidity struggle?
Acidity in wine is very important as it is what brings about the tartaric taste, uniqueness, complexity, and balance of the beverage. It is what makes you salivate, making you want to take a sip after another. It is what enables it to be enjoyed as it normally is by either pairing it with certain foods or be taken as is. It is the acidity in the wine that determines the way it ferments when subjected to ideal fermentation conditions as well as the life of the wine even after the fermentation period.
Curbing and managing wine acidity
Some people just can’t compromise on having a great social time and the pleasure a glass or two of wine affords them. They, therefore, have tried ways to curb the heartburn or rather acidity menace while still being able to enjoy a glass of their favorite wine. Taking acid-blockers or ant-acid medications prior to engaging in wine consumption is a discovery that has saved many social lives out there. These acid-blockers chemically act by neutralizing the acidity in the stomach as well as in the gullet/esophagus.
Some theories say that drinking alcohol/wine on an empty stomach leads to excruciating heartburns. One is therefore encouraged to ensure that they introduce something solid to the stomach to serve as a base before they can finally introduce the alcohol. This, however, works differently with different people.
Another used but uncommon way of reducing wine acidity is by diluting it
by adding some distilled water to it. The problem with this is that it also
dilutes the wine’s flavor, thus rendering the wine tasteless and with no
As earlier mentioned, the fermentation process, the grape variety in use and the climatic condition of a region play a big role in determining the acidity levels of wine. Depending on personal preference, whether we are talking of homemade or bought wine, through fermentation, a wine’s acidity levels and its overall flavor are influenced.
So then, what is the way forward?
Acidity of various wines differ. Most wine description boxes indicate the acidity levels of its content but with a little research, you can establish a niche and find yourself the right kind of wine. Once you’ve known your acid tolerance levels, you can still enjoy your wine by going for low-acidity wines.