There are different types of acidity in wine. Some occur naturally during the growing of the grapes and some happens during the wine-making process. Grapes grown in a colder climate tend to have higher acidity and lower sugar levels while grapes grown in a warmer climate have lower acidity levels and higher sugar levels. A winemaker can play with the level of acidity and sugars through Chaptalization (adding sugar) and Malolactic Fermentation (MLF).
Malolactic Fermentation (MLF)
MLF adjusts the acidity of the wine. An average red wine should have about .6% acidity while an average white should have .7%. If the wine’s acidity percentage goes to 1% this will make the wine very tart and sour while an acidity level that is too low like .4% will make the wine flat and susceptible to spoilage by microorganisms (gross!). Sweet dessert wines on the other hand generally have higher acidity at 1% because they need the tart and sour flavours to play off of the high sugar content, so it doesn’t get disgustingly sweet.
Chart: Acidity Levels in Wine by Grape Variety
Tannin Levels in Wine
Tannins (polyphenols, if you feel like getting scientific) are what make a wine feel sharp in your mouth. Cabernet Sauvignons are especially known for having strong tannins because the skins, seeds, and stems sat longer in the juice. Higher tannins means the wine will age better, but it also causes that dry mouth sensation which you either love or hate in your wine selection.
The Finish or After Taste of A Wine
The finish of a wine is usually the last flavour or sensation that remains on your tongue after the wine has left your mouth. To learn more about the term finish check our Tasting Terms section or click on the term itself. Sometimes finish is used interchangeably with length, but they do have slight differences in professional tasting. The length is how long the wine lingers on your palate while the finish is the flavour it leaves. Length is a measurement while finish is usually a descriptive adjective like: savory, sweet, rich or spicy.
Review Your Wines on Just Wine
Now that you understand more about the chemical interactions of wine it can help you discern what you like and don’t like about different wines. You will be able to use descriptions with proper terminology, discuss wine and understand what others are talking about at wine tastings or even when you are reviewing a wine right here on JUST WINE.