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Article – Acidity – Does this wine look fat?

August 20th, 2010


There are no late night cheese fuelled hallucinogenic dreams to report, but if tomorrow’s trip to Dublin to see the men in Blue and Gold take on the Déise is not to my liking, there could be a few nightmares ahead. I’ll write the first half of the article the day before the match, and the second half the day after. So, I will try to instil some cautious optimism into this portion and hope to add euphoria to the second.


Is he finally going mad?

Last week we discussed the level of sweetness in wine and the differences between a dry and off dry wine. We were of course using Jancis Robinson’s wonderful book “How to Taste Wine” as our main curriculum textbook for reference. This is of course until I finally get the call from a publisher to write my own book. I think I will call it “How to open a business in a recession and 20 other crazy things to do before you are 40”. I have just had what the texting generation call an OMG moment. For those of you not prolific in this most annoying of languages, this means “Oh My God”. I have just realised I am closer to 40 than I am to 30 and the clock is only going in one direction. Maybe I should contact the publisher instead of waiting for the call. So much for the optimism promised in paragraph 1. Enough rambles in the brambles, to the vino.

Feel the force Luke

Ask someone from a certain generation about Acid and they could conjure up visions much starker than my late night cheese fuelled ones.

But there will be no mention of the light fantastic or taking a trip anywhere near it. When I refer to acid, I mean acidity. To quote Ms. Robinson, “Sweetness ( or lack of it, i.e. dryness ) may be the most obvious of the four basic tastes to students of wine, but what physiologists call sourness is the most vital to the wine itself”. This sourness is how we measure acidity. There is a lot in lemon and vinegar and none in flour and water. While the tip of the tongue is where we measure sweetness, it is the upper edges, towards the back of the mouth that we notice and measure acidity. I have talked about balance many times before and it is essential to find the right balance between sweetness and acidity. Think of Wine Wars (instead of Star Wars) and the search for the secret in a great wine. Just as Luke brought balance to the force, winemakers try to pick their grapes at the ‘Skywalker’ moment.

As fruit ripens it gets sweeter but loses acidity. The winemaker wants the grapes to be as ripe as possible as it makes for richer flavours in the wine, but if they wait too long, then the acidity falls too far and you have a bland and boring wine. Naturally high acidity levels come from grapes with lots of ripening sunshine, or from grapes picked before they were fully ripe. It can also come from the winemaker adding acidity to the wine or fermenting grape juice (must). This can be quite common in warmer wine regions.

Sweetness, I was only joking

To demonstrate how important this balance is, think of a sweet wine, such as a desert wine. Sauternes is the most obvious one that springs to mind. It can be regarded as great when there is enough acidity to counterbalance the sweetness. However, if there is lots of acidity and very little residual sugar, then yuck – a really tart or green wine. The opposite of this is when you get too little acidity and a flat wine. This balance and acidity levels are very often the reason that people think they are drinking a very dry wine, but it could just be an off dry or sweet wine with too much acidity, which can be hard work.

Take care of our Eoin

To measure acidity, Jancis breaks it down into 4 levels :
Green or Tart, Crisp, Flabby or Flat and then Cloying or Too Sweet. I could identify typical wines that can often fall into these categories but I am not sure it would be fair as it would be a generalization. So, when you are drinking your next glass of white wine, as well as trying to identify how much residual sugar is in it ( i.e. is it dry?), try to determine the acidity level. Is it too low, too high, or as Goldilocks found out with the porridge in the 3 Bears House, is it just right. If it is, there is a good chance it is also in balance. The last 2 paragraphs were written the day after the big match, and while happy with the result, we’ll hold off on any euphoria until September 5th. The lads did what they had to do, and let’s hope they can improve again. If anyone comes across Eoin Kelly between now and then, be sure to help him with the shopping and don’t let him do anything strenuous. We need him fighting fit. His 53rd minute goal was simply sublime. I remember going to Marlfield Hurling matches growing up and Theo English shouting for more ground hurling. I think Theo must have been very impressed with the stick work he saw yesterday.

Last call for the Tipperary Food Producers Long Table dinner is coming up on August 25th in Chez Hans, The Old Convent, Inch House and Brocka on the Water. Tickets are all but sold out but we will be twittering on the night. Follow @tippfoood, @rednosewine and @pat_whelan for live updates and photos. I’ll be representing the Network in Clogheen myself and look forward to a wonderful night with Christine and Dermot.

Don’t forget to log onto the blog at or follow the ranting on Twitter –

For anyone who would like more information and can’t make it into the shop, please feel free to contact me at

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Aug 19 2010

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