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Acid Is Not A Four Letter Word!

Dimanche 14 Juin 2020

Well more precisely "acidity", which is definitely not a four letter word...

Acid Is Not A Four Letter Word!
Well more precisely "acidity" which is definitely not a four-letter word.As a wine retailer, acidity is a word which one uses with caution. For some clients, the word conjures up the idea of a sharp, sour mouthful. That dodgy white wine that took the enamel off your teeth or that astringent red that kept you up half the night with heartburn. Yet acidity, when well managed by a vigneron is an essential part of what makes a good wine. Indeed, one can argue that it is what gives certain great wines that finesse and longevity which offers the possibility of greatness. The cool Burgundian climate of the Côtes de Beaune and Côtes de Nuits, where (certainly in pre-global warming times) the grapes really had to work hard to achieve maturity, confers a level of acidity which can offer a lightness of touch and complexity to a red wine which for many people is incomparable. However, in less gifted hands, a poor, thin Hautes Côtes de Beaune for example, can be sharp, unpleasant and being from Burgundy, overpriced. There is a school of thought which suggests that recent warmer and longer growing periods are helping to reduce levels of certain types of acidity and are producing higher levels of sugar and therefore alcohol. This makes sense, but as the well-managed acidity can be what makes a wine special, it could mean that we are producing high alcohol, low acidity wines which lack individuality. There are those who say that red Burgundies are becoming "jammier", less Burgundian and more Rhone-like. It's difficult not to notice how Loire whites such as Sancerre have become rounder and less tart. Even down here, some Picpoul de Pinet wines are now showing more exotic fruit qualities rather than the more traditional citrus and particularly grapefruit properties.  But consumers now shy away from acidity, or don't want or can't afford to keep the wine in their cellar until the wine has softened and matured. Instant gratification means big, ballsy reds with soft, oaky tannins and low acidity whites that taste like fruit juice. Not unpleasant you might say, and I would agree, but perhaps we are gradually losing some of the typicity that makes wine such a fascinating subject.So where does this leave the Languedoc with its warmer climate? In the same boat as everyone else. Freshness in wines is difficult to achieve down here. Consumers want mature fruit in their wines, which may mean harvesting later and ending up with acidity levels which are too low. This can be rectified to some extent in the winery, but nothing beats the natural balance of sugar and acidity in a grape that has been picked at just the right time. Some areas have a natural finesse and sometimes higher acidity levels. Take the Terrasses de Larzac appellation. Big reds with lots of alcohol and fruit, but in the best wines there is a lightness of touch which sets them apart. This area has a higher diurnal temperature difference than other parts of the region thanks to cooler air descending at night from the Larzac plateau. The great Jamie Goode (aka The Wine Anorak), perhaps the best wine writer in the English language today, suggests that cooler nights may preserve acidity in grapes because the process of night time respiration in the berries is slowed down. Look into this subject, and like many associated with wine it can quickly become extremely complicated. However, it is a hot topic in wine at the moment, and it is responsible for a change in habits and production methods. Here at Le Wine Shop we always look for wines that have a freshness to them, whether red, white or rosé. Yes there are some of those big, Châteauneuf-style reds, but even those need a fibre of acidity to avoid them becoming too jammy, and this is always true in the best wines. 

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