People don’t always get excited when they hear you describe a wine as acidic, but it’s one of the most important qualities in a wine! Without acidity, a wine feels flat, lacks structure, and goes horribly with food.
Pretty much all wines have some amount of acidity, but we’re going to focus on wines that have acidity as a primary and defining quality.
There are a bunch of acidic wines in the world other than Sauvignon Blanc, so this guide is intended to 1. educate you on other great high-acid wines and 2. tell you what foods to pair with them.
How To Know if a Wine is Acidic
So first, let’s talk about how to know when a wine is acidic. Sommeliers might tell you to look at the pH of the wine (lower pH = higher acidity), but there are certainly easier ways.
So for those who don’t regularly carry around tools from a biology lab, I suggest looking at three things when trying to figure out the acidity of a wine: taste, region, and wine varietal.
Acidic Wine Taste
Taste-wise, acidic wines have a tartness that makes your mouth pucker and water. Those are kind of gross terms, but these wines basically make your mouth want food, often round out whatever you’re eating, and act as palate cleansers.
Acidic Wine Climate
Acidic wines generally come from cooler climate regions, like Alsace and Germany (ex: Riesling), Oregon and Washington (ex: Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir), and New Zealand (ex: Sauvignon Blanc).
High-Acid Wine Varietals
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Pinot Gris
- Pinot Noir
- Barbera d’Asti
- Northern Rhône Syrah
Low-Acid Wine Varietals
- California Chardonnay
- California Merlot
- California Cabernet Sauvignon
- Mendoza Malbec
How To Pair Food with Acidic Wine
Whenever you’re pairing wine and food, the rule of thumb — aside from matching the body of the wine with the body of the meal — is to either contrast or complement the respective flavors and textures.
So, if a wine is acidic, you can go off of the following rules.
1. Contrast Acidic Wine with Slightly Fatty and Oily Foods
Examples would be salmon or pasta with a béchamel sauce. Acid cuts through and contrasts with buttery, velvety dishes. Think Pinot Noir and prime rib; Sauvignon Blanc with penne alfredo… you get the picture.
2. Contrast Acidic Wine with Salty Foods
Salt can be a difficult taste to pair with wine. It unpleasantly amplifies the tannins (bitterness) in reds and the acidity in both whites and reds. However, when done correctly, pairing salty food with wine can be super fun.
Acidity in wine cuts through salt, which brings out flavors in the dish that might usually be masked by the saltiness. Meanwhile, salt can bring out the salinity in a wine.
For those who are unfamiliar with the term: salinity is just a fancy word for saltiness. I know it sounds weird, but I promise it’s a good quality in a wine. It has an almost ocean air-like taste that makes you feel like you’re on a beach.
Examples of this pairing include briny oysters with Muscadet — a dry, white wine with high salinity and acidity from the coast of the Loire Valley in France. Or for the simpler palates with a lot of extra cash on hand: fried chicken and Champagne.
3. Complement Acidic Wine with Tart Foods
But not too tart. Don’t just bite a lemon before taking a sip of Sauvignon Blanc.
A tart dish — like a grapefruit salad with a light citrus dressing — goes really well with an acidic wine, because the similar tart and sour tastes actually reduce the overall acidity in both components. This can bring out other elements you wouldn’t otherwise notice in the dish and the wine, such as the fruitiness.
Recipes to Pair with Acidic Wines
Tarte Flambée with a dry Alsatian Riesling
Pan Fried Oysters with a Brut Spanish Cava
Baked Lemon Butter Tilapia with a dry Vouvray (Chenin Blanc)
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