Happy new year, everyone! I hope you had a great holiday season and new year celebration.
And being that we already one week into the new year, I thought I would just dive right into something controversial — some would even call it taboo.
Acidity. Sometimes people in the food and wine world treat it like its a four-letter word (for those of you not familiar with the expression, a four-letter word in English is a “bad” word, profanity, obscenity in some cases). But it’s actually the good word. All wine is made up of a balance of water, alcohol, and acidity. Those are the three main components in any wine together with what is often referred to as “dry extract” — the solid elements that give the wine color, texture, aroma, and flavor.
Of those three, the two most important are the alcohol and the acidity. And it’s their balance (or lack thereof) that can make the wine great (or make it not so great). Barbera often gets a bad rap because many describe it as a grape and a wine that has a lot of acidity and very little tannin. But that bad reputation is as erroneous as it is misplaced.
Beyond the fact that acidity sounds like a bad word because of its application in other sectors like hard science, we need to look back at the emergence of the wine trade in the U.S. after the second world war. By the 1970s, Americans were being plied with wines that had very little acidity and a lot of tannin. That was partly because it was challenging to make acidity-driven wines in California where the weather can be too warm for that style of wine. And it was also due to the fact that wine marketers and wine retailers taught Americans — who weren’t a wine drinking nation before the 1970s — to like sweeter-style wines with very little acidity and a lot of tannin. Think of oaky Zinfandel from that era — the apotheosis of the classic Californian wine.
In the next few posts, we’re going to look at the nature and role of acidity and why it’s such an important element in the great wines of the world and why it’s part of what makes Barbera such a distinctive fine wine grape.