Acidity helps wine stand up, catch attention

A science teacher was trying to explain the idea of the skeleton being the structure of the human body to her young students.

Beyond the obvious difficulty of getting past the idea that skeletons are scary and getting the kids to accept that everyone has one inside, she also was trying to figure out how to make them realize our bones are what allows our bodies to keep their shape and do the things we can, such as standing up.

She decided to demonstrate by telling the children, as she stood before them, that without our bones, we would just be big blobs. She then allowed her body to go as limp as possible and began to sort of wobble around the room like an amoeba.

If you've ever heard or read about wine having backbone, or structure, it's kind of the same idea. Some wines stand right up and get your attention, while others just kind of sit in your glass unobtrusively.

The component that we're talking about here is acidity. All wines contain a certain amount of naturally occurring acids, and when these are out of balance with the other flavor components, it simply isn't going to taste right.

Too much acidity results in a wine that is too sour and will make you pucker up, but not for a kiss. Too little acidity, and you have wine that sits like a blob, unable to stand up for itself and lacking any real distinction.

While tannin is often considered the culprit in dry red wines, creating a bitter taste that can really make it difficult to get used to dry wine, acidity issues frequently occur in white wines, too.

In the case of white wines, too much acidity will make them difficult to enjoy, especially without the accompaniment of food.

Some of the more acidic white wines, such as sauvignon blancs, pinot grigios from Italy, and muscadets and chenin blancs from France's Loire Valley, are commonly associated with seafood, and rightly so. In the same way that people like to squeeze lemon on their rainbow trout, the acidity in white wines such as these complements the food.

Acidity is also the reason these wines should be served at a cooler temperature than red wines and certain other whites. You wouldn't want to drink lemonade that was lukewarm.

The acid in the lemon juice is tempered by the coldness, and acidic white wines are crisp and delicious when properly chilled to about 55 degrees. If left to sit at room temperature, however, that nice crisp white can become almost unbearably sour.

One of the more acidic red wines is chianti, made from Sangiovese grapes in central Italy. Chianti is likewise a food wine, pairing especially well with the acidity in tomato-based pasta sauces.

Write me with your thoughts or questions, at brian.goodell@morris.com. Until next time, happy pours.