Wednesday, October 08, 2008
What's so good about acid, man? If you read the definition of the word acid in a dictionary, it really doesn't sound like anything you'd want to put in your mouth. Chemically, it's a sour-tasting water-soluble compound that can react with a base (alkali) to form a salt. But show me a wine without adequate acid, and I'll show you a wine that's flabby and not very appealing. While too much acidity can be terribly sour, a touch of acid gives wine an appetising, mouth-watering characteristic that can be described as bright, or crisp, or fresh. Of course balance is important, and that bright component must be matched by fruit, but the fact remains that acid is not a negative term when it comes to wine. There are a number of different acids in wine, primarily tartaric (shown above), malic, citric, succinic, and lactic. The sum of these is the total acidity (TA) of a wine which winemakers generally express in grams of acid per 100 millilitres of wine. You don't really need to know all this chemistry to appreciate a good glass of wine but the fact that it exists will make your tongue extremely happy.