Wine has five components that determine taste and quality: alcohol, acid, tannin, sweetness/dryness, and fruitiness
Last week alcohol, this week acid, the element most dependent upon vineyard and its management and the key element of white wine.
As grapes ripen, sugar goes up while acidity goes down. The challenge for the viticulturalist (vineyard manager) is to harvest when the balance between acid and sugar is just right for the wine being made. The balance of acid with other taste components heralds the difference between great wine, good wine, average wine, and plonk.
When there is not enough acid, white wines taste flat or listless (think slacker); acid-challenged reds and sweeter wines taste flabby and pair poorly with assertive foods (think wimp). On the other hand, when there is too much acid, the wine is biting and mean spirited (think harpy). Wines with properly balanced acid are vivacious and lively (think fun date).
Acid helps wine quench your thirst and aids in aging—without acid, wine turns brown and falls apart after a few years.
In the long, hot summers of New World vineyards—California and Australia, for example—acid fades early, so vintners (winery managers) add acid during fermentation. European vineyards, where summers are shorter, have the opposite problem. Tel est la vie, tel est du vin (such is life, such is wine).
• Dry Creek Vineyard Chenin Blanc Clarksburg. Peach, apricot, citrus acidity. $15
• Pacific Rim Riesling-Dry. Lime, apricot, right acidity. $11
• Straccali Tuscany Chianti. Cherry nose, clean and spicy Chianti acidity. $9