"The Soapbox"

Wine Trends [Vol.1]: The Rise of the Acid Lover

Written by Simone Popov · 3 min read >

Welcome to Wine Trends, a tongue-in-cheek look at the world of wine and its inhabitants. Today, we’re talking acid.

It is the world of the acid freak out there.

And, no, I don’t mean your Granddad at Woodstock. I’m talking about those select, chosen few who sacrifice their intestines and enamel for the greater good and single-handedly drive the Chablis wine sales while puckering their face at every sip like they’re drinking liquified Warheads candy.

That type of acid freak.

“How low is the pH?

It can go lower.

How high is the total acidity?

It needs to be higher.

The acidophile (not sure if that’s a word, but whatever) will throw caution to the wind while drinking the greenish-yellow liquid just a few ph points off of battery acid.

So who are these people?

Generalizations are rarely accurate but fun nonetheless, so please allow me to indulge.

An acid-daddy (or mommy, or non-binary) is probably someone in their 30s, either working as a Somm in a restaurant or pretending to be one. They are extreme cool-climate drinkers. If the vineyard is planted below the 45th parallel, it’s not for them. Their tasting notes are “chalk-full” of livewire acidity and crazy minerality. When not drinking the zingiest bone-dry Riesling or the freshest Gruner, they put A.A. batteries to their tongue just “to feel something.” They’re masochists, practicing crimes against enamel that would make a dentist feint. And they’re never too far away to decry the more “basic” of wines (both in terms of style and the level of acid).

I know what you are thinking. “You’re just making these people up. These people don’t exist.” But they do. Trust me.

Wine Extremists

Is the acid-lover just a rebellion against the wine styles that were historically in vogue? Are acidheads just contrarians, running in direct counter to the plush, oaky chardonnay “Debras” and Cab swigging “Pauls” of the previous generation? (Sincerest apologies to people named Debra and Paul, I have nothing against you guys) Indeed, this is not out of the question. Just like your granddaddy popped a tab to protest Vietnam, these pseudo-hipsters are blazing a trail for their radical revolution from the tastes of old.

Acidheads vs. Natty Hipsters

It may seem like these two categories are two sides of the same coin, and they indeed share an audience, but they are different entities. While the natty brigade searches for pronounced smells of sweat and horse on their wines, our acid fiends are happy to drink alcoholic lemon water if only the Ph is below 2.2. They’re a different animal but the same beast.

IYKYK

Acidity: Why do we care?

To understand acid freaks better, we can look at acidity. Wine is naturally an acidic product. The earlier you pick the grapes in the ripening cycle, the more acid you will have in the wine. Most high-quality wines (especially whites) boast acidity as a critical component of the structure as it lifts the flavors and zaps your buds, causing them to salivate and you to take another sip. Outside of wine, citric acid is dumped by the metric crap-ton (yes, this is technical wine-speak) into Coca-Cola to mask the equally-metric-crap-ton of sugar. Acid is a balancing agent, sitting on the opposite side of sugar, tannins, and rich, fruity flavors.

A nice little gage showing the PH of wine compared to other drinks. No battery acid here, don’t drink that….

Acid and Terroir?

Without going into the deep dark wormhole that is ‘terroir’ (we’re keeping it light and breezy here), grapes need to ripen while retaining their acidity. And so, location plays a key role. Kind of like Goldilocks and the three bears; if the site is too cold; not enough fruit/body, too hot; not enough acid retention. So every great vineyard, hypothetically, is in that third “bowl,” the “just right” area, whether it is latitude, altitude, proximity to water, or something else.

To read more about terroir, check out this article.

Acid and Great Wine

So, yeah, acid is pretty essential. The world’s top wines are known for their acidity, and aged wines are revered for holding on to that zippy feeling even into their 30-40s. It is fair to say that all great wines are acidic, but a grievous error to conclude that all acidic wines are great. The great wines still have to show diverse flavors, excellent structure on the palate (either with tannins or otherwise), and a lengthy finish.

The Final Judgement

Acidity in wine is one of my favorite things. Often, the acid separates a good wine from an elite, age-worthy wine from a “drink it now” kind of wine. I see the appeal. Even the people specifically seeking out “acid-driven” wines are pretty cool in their own right, and I’m not saying that because, in my early days in the wine industry, I used to be one. We live in a world of extremes and food challenges, and wine can also be challenging when you are just starting to appreciate it. But consumers, just like your Granddad after the 60s, don’t remain acidheads. We find balance and look for more “complete” wine styles that aren’t just livewire zingers. But sometimes, on a nice summer day or with some fresh oysters, we return to our old favorite, mineral-laden, warhead candy wine that refreshes so well.  

Check out some of my favorite acid-driven wines of the summer.

P.S.

If this was a little too “basic” for you, I am sorry. Check out some of these articles for a more in-depth analysis of acid.

https://boundbywine.com/blogs/all-things-wine/understanding-acidity-in-wine#:~:text=There%20are%20four%20primary%20types,levels%20in%20common%20wine%20varietals.

https://winefolly.com/deep-dive/understanding-acidity-in-wine/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *