Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

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Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Winemaking Articles

All puckered Up! Acidity in Wine

Have you ever sat down on a sweltering day to sip a refreshing glass of acid? Few things sound less appetizing, but acidity is an important and distinctive component of wine. Too little of the naturally occurring acidity in wine grapes, and Chardonnay tastes "flabby" and dull, while Sauvignon Blanc tastes like a flat soda, and Cabernet Sauvignon tastes like soap. Too much acidity, and wine tastes sour, excessively tart or harsh. Proper levels of acidity give wine its zing, its zip, its crisp character, its food-friendliness, and its age worthiness.

Acidity plays a key role in all our wines at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. In our white wines, such as the 2005 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc and 2005 Rancho Chimiles Sauvignon Blanc, crispness is very much a part of the identity of both wines. Acidity helps keep them refreshing, stimulating and food friendly. Indeed, it is the acidity in both of our Sauvignon Blancs that makes your mouth water and cry out for a good food pairing, such as fresh oysters, or a fresh green salad with goat cheese. A wine with good acidity has a palate-cleansing affect that readies your mouth for the variety of tastes present at almost every meal.

Grapes grown in warmer climates generally have lower acidity than grapes grown in cooler climates. In wine grapes grown in warmer climates, there can be too little acidity and in cooler areas, there is often too much. Where there is too much acidity, a winemaker can employ malolactic fermentation. This process converts hard "apple-type" malic acid to softer "milktype" lactic acid, which reduces tart, green apple flavors and adds richer, sometimes buttery flavors.

Our two Napa Valley Chardonnays illustrate how different levels of acidity and malolactic fermentation can differentiate the characteristics of the wine. As in all our whites, both wines contain pleasing acidity, but its character is more dominant in the 2004 ARCADIA VINEYARD Chardonnay which undergoes only 15% malolactic fermentation compared to the 2004 Napa Valley Chardonnay that undergoes 40% malolactic fermentation. Differences in vineyard sites and barrel aging also contribute to differences in acid levels in these wines.

In our red wines, acidity helps preserve the wine and is key to its age-worthiness. At Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars we value the age ability of our wines. Significantly high acidity in our 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon, a 33 year old wine, demonstrates this point. We could not have been more gratified this May 24th, on the 30th Anniversary of the 1976 Paris Tasting, when an expert panel in the US and UK ranked our 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon second – and only a fraction behind first – among a field of ten of the best wines from Bordeaux and California vintages from the early 1970s.

Acid Test: Let’s get back to that sweltering day. The acidity in our wines with this month’s shipment will surely quench your thirst and complement much of your summertime fare. Enjoy!