Off The Vine: Acidity helps keep it fresh

October 10, 2012 

Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you are at a cocktail party with a lot of people you don't know that the conversations around you seem to be very dull and boring? Well, when I am in that type of a setting it reminds me of drinking a wine that has too little acidity.

The acidity level contained in a particular wine is one of the more important factors affecting the wine's taste and character. When a wine tastes somewhat sour, it is due to a high acidity level. On the other hand, a wine with too little acidity will taste dull. The acids are what causes a well-made wine to taste crisp and allows it to maintain its freshness.

The interaction or balance between acidity and the tannins in a red wine plays a major role in how enjoyable the wine tastes. If the tannin and acidity levels are both high, the wine will taste very hard and astringent. Tannins make a wine taste quite tart -- a good way to experiment is to take a big drink of hot tea and feel just how your taste buds are affected. In wine the tannins come from the skins of the grapes. The sugar content in a grape increases as it ripens whereas the acidity level decreases. One of the keys for a winemaker in deciding when to harvest a particular vineyard is when the sugar and acidity levels are perfectly balanced.

A major reason that cabernet sauvignon wines are tannic is because it is a thick-skinned grape. The longer the grape skins remain in contact with freshly crushed grape juice, the more tannic and deeply colored the finished wine will be.

The 2008 Louis Mar

tini Cabernet Sauvignon Napa received a 90-point rating by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, the third consecutive year that it was rated 90 or higher. This is well-balanced cabernet that is easy to drink and pairs very well with a roast that is slow cooked and served over risotto with a wine sauce.

Mr. Parker describes the 2010 Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma as having "silky tannins and adequate acidity." Louis Martini made over 200,000 cases of this cabernet and it retails for approximately $13 per bottle.

Each of these wines contained more than sufficient tannin levels to balance the natural acidity, causing a soft and silky feel in the mouth. They are all also perfect examples of California cabernet sauvignon wines that are still a value in today's market.

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at

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