When was the last time someone said “I am in the mood for something acidic”? It is an odd term to use to describe a wine or food we like. People say they crave sweet or salty foods and prefer fruity juicy or tannic dry wines.
What if we asked “are you in the mood for something refreshing or mouthwatering?” Ah, that sounds more appealing. Acidity actually plays a major part in food and wine pairing. Many wine drinkers rarely notice acidity – until it goes missing.
Think about an overripe tomato, grape, apple, pineapple, etc. They taste too sweet, not refreshing – kind of like a cola gone flat. That is because there isn’t enough acidity to balance the sugars.
Different wine and food combinations affect how much acidity you detect on the palate. Acid in food masks acid in wine. Pasta tossed with sour, acidic flavors like lemon juice, tomatoes, and olives needs a more acidic wine, or the wine’s zestiness will be hidden. This is why most Italian wines are so acidic. They pair with the tomato based regional cuisine.
Fatty foods love acidity in their wine pairing. Think about a cream sauce that calls for a little lemon zest. The lemon brightens and lightens the dish. Wines with a refreshing acidity help cut the heaviness of the fatty food and keep the flavors lifted. Why do you think we dip French fries in acidic tomato based catsup? Fat in a dish also tends to make a wine seem less acidic so choosing wines with higher acidity restores the balance while somehow making the texture creamier.
How do you know which wines are considered acidic? Acidity is one of the main components in a grape and should be present in wines, but some wines have more acidity because of the grapes or cool growing climates. Champagne – and most sparkling wines made by the Champagne method are pretty acidic. Sauvignon Blanc, dry Rieslings, and Chenin Blanc are known for their acidity. Most Italian reds and whites have high acidity. Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Gamay do well in cooler climates and retain their acidity. Wines with higher alcohol tend to have lower acidity. If you haven’t memorized a list of cool climate grapes and you don’t know which vineyards sit on a mountain or experience cooling fog, don’t despair. Simply knowing you want a crisp acidic wine puts you ahead of the game. Ask your waiter. Ask at your trusted wine shop. Ask me if you want.