2020 Summer Wine Special – 12 Acid-focused Wines for Long Days, Light Fare
Summer is here! After long months of quarantine, we want to relish the summer and be outside enjoying the sun. Long hot summer days need refreshing cold beverages and lighter foods.
Here we introduce you to summer’s best choice, high-acid wines. Then browse our top dozen picks that will keep you refreshed while enjoying summer meals.
High-Acid Wine: The Basics
Why high-acid wines for summer? Because they are more invigorating and make better matches with summer foods.
Think of acid as an ingredient in a dish. Adding citrus or vinegar livens up the food by acting as a flavor enhancer. Pairing food with high-acid wine does the same.
While acid is present in every wine, the winemaker’s endless quest is to balance acid with sweetness, alcohol, and tannin.
As grapes ripen during the growing season, sugar in the berries increases and acid decreases. One of the most critical decisions for a winemaker is when to pick the grapes to get the balance of sugar and acid desired.
Colder regions tend to produce higher acid wines where grapes don’t ripen as much as in warmer climates. Planting a vineyard at higher elevation or in a location with a shorter growing season can have the same impact.
Sites with a significant change in temperature between day and night (diurnal change) yield wines with proper acid levels. Grapes cool down overnight and don’t continue to accumulate sugar at the expense of acid.
Some regions allow winemakers to adjust acidity by adding tartaric acid before fermentation to increase the acid level.
The acid in wine also acts as a preservative helping it to age. Without it, wine will not age well.
The Taste of Acid in Wine
Bite into a slice of lemon, and you’ll know acidity. It will pucker your mouth. Without it, wine would not be in balance. But too much acid makes wine too tart or sour, basically undrinkable.
Less phenological ripeness in the fruit equals lower sugar and higher acid. If you’ve ever bitten into an unripe strawberry and it tasted more like a citrus fruit, you know what this is like.
Higher acid wines tend to be more vibrant, and juicy with a citrusy character. They have noticeable energy, inviting you to have more.
An interesting fact: lemon juice and Coca-Cola have the same level of acid, but because Coke has sugar, the impact is mitigated.
Let’s look at three textbook high-acid wines:
- When wine drinkers think about acidity, Sauvignon Blanc always comes to mind. Understanding acidity is easy when you taste Sauvignon Blanc. It is crisp, mouth-watering, and racy. The most common fruit taste in Sauvignon Blanc is that of lemon-lime citrus.
- For red wine, tasting acidity is less straight-forward. A wine from Beaujolais, made from the Gamay grape, illustrates it best. Try tasting some fresh raspberries or strawberries alongside a Gamay and appreciate the acid in both the fruit and the wine.
- The base wines of Champagne are probably the most highly-acidic wines in the world because it is produced from lower sugar (which means lower alcohol)) and higher acid grapes. Champagne demands high acidity for both crispness and aging.
The Importance of Acid
The pH scale is critically important in wine because it determines how acidic the wine is. Winemakers rely on pH in creating the style of wine they want.
The lower the pH, the more acidic the solution. The scale runs from 1 – 14 with acid 1-7. Because pH is logarithmic, the impact of each factor is ten times.
- Water = 7 (neutral)
- Coffee = 5
- Wine = 2.7 to 4.5
- Red wine = 3.0 – 4.5
- White wine = 2.7 – 3.5
Wine has different types of acids, but the most important are tartaric and malic, both natural to the grape.
In some unfiltered white wines, you’ll see the remains of tartaric acid in wine at the bottom of the bottle in the form of crystals. Tartaric acid adds a crisp or lively element to wine.
Malic acid is a tart acid. You know the taste of malic acid if you’ve ever bitten into a green apple. In some white wines, such as Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and other aromatic whites, malic acid is the primary acid. In some white wines, such as Chardonnay, the malic acid is transformed during the process of malolactic fermentation into lactic acid, the acid found in milk. This process softens or reduces the tart character. Thus, you’ll find a more buttery, mouth-coating acidity in most Chardonnay.
There is some citric acid (the acid in Coca-Cola) in wine but miniscule quantities.
You might see “total acidity” shown on a wine label or tech sheet. Also called, titratable acid, measures the amount of acid, while pH measures the intensity or strength of the acid in the wine.
Another curious fact: for red wine, the lighter its color, the more acid it likely has.
Summer foods are perfect with wines of higher acidity. Generally speaking, during the hot months, we eat the bountiful fruits and vegetables that summer brings. These tend to be lighter foods which pair better with lighter wines. These wines go with grilled foods, fresh salads, fresh seafood, and picnic foods. Keep in mind a few guidelines:
- Wine should not overpower the food.
- Wine should be more acidic than food.
- Match the body of the food with the body of the wine.
- Match the intensity of flavors between wine and food.
- Leave the sauces out (except for barbecue sauce, of course) or match to the sauce.
- Stay with fresh fruit for dessert, or you’ll need a sweeter wine than the dessert.
With rosé, try grilled salmon, turkey burgers, spicy dishes like barbecue ribs, or paella.
With lighter white wines, serve raw oysters, fried seafood, grilled fish, summer salads, grilled vegetables, or anything marinated in citrus.
For white wines with a bit more body (typically oak aged wines), pair with grilled lobster, roasted chicken or pork, pasta, or charcuterie.
Lighter red wines pair with bruschetta, grilled pork, swordfish, steak, and grilled bratwurst. If you can determine if the red wine has been aged in stainless steel rather than oak, it will often be a more light bodied red wine. Wines that have aged in new oak barrels for a significant period of time are more likely to be heavy or full bodied red wines.
Top 12 Acid-focused Wines for 2020 Summer
1. 2018 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé $14.99
A producer of sustainable and eco-friendly wines, Mulderbosch knows rosé, having released the inaugural vintage in 1999. Unusual for the rosé category, the cool climate vineyards are specifically farmed to produce fruit only for rosé.
The wine is made like an aromatic white wine, resulting in a vibrant and fragrant style. Well-balanced with aromas of sliced strawberries, it has a concentration atypical of even more expensive rosés.
From 30-year old vines of white Grenache and Macabeo in the Terra Alta DO of Spain, this is a perfect all-day wine for summer.
An inviting pale yellow, the wine reveals beautiful white fruits and flowers on the nose and a fresh sweet citrus note in the mouth. Lovely on its own or with lighter seafood dishes.
If you only have one Moscato this summer, this is the one. Not your typical Moscato, this wine is nuanced and sophisticated but still fun and indulgent.
The quick, gentle pressing technique dubbed the “Asti method” produces a semi-sweet, low-alcohol lightly sparkling wine. This Moscato delivers much more.
La Bioca produced this wine as a special limited production. It is refined and complex, showing fresh ripe melons, floral notes, and a subtle sweetness for the ultimate in summer fun.
What to serve with summer’s lighter foods? You can’t go wrong with this fresh, lively Tuscan beauty that will elevate grilled seafood.
A blend of three favorite white grapes, Erastos offers the best of each. Viognier adds exotic aromas, Chardonnay brings flavors of apples and pears, and Sauvignon Blanc delivers the energy.
Erastos was named in "The Best Wines of Italy" by Luca Maroni.
You’ve never had a Sauvignon Blanc like this: made from old vines, organic & biodynamic, limited production.
An outstanding vintage, the wine is alive with aromas and flavors of chalky minerality, tart citrus, and dried herbs. Serve this alongside seared wild salmon, and you’ll be in heaven.
For those stalwarts who insist on drinking red wine in the summer, Beaujolais is the answer. This Morgon is a serious wine that will impress any red wine drinker.
Certified eco-friendly, the Domain has been producing top Beaujolais since 1840. This wine hails from Cru Beaujolais vineyards of 50-year-old vines.
With brisk acidity, the wine has a medium body, aromas of dark cherry and plum, and rich fruit-forward flavors that linger. Serve it chilled with any grilled meat.
Pinot Noir also drinks well in the summer and this one drinks at twice the price.
“Let the Good Times Roll” with an elegant limited-production wine made from the organically farmed Spear vineyard, which produces some of the most sought-after Pinot grapes in California.
This balanced wine reveals a nose and palate of lavender, raspberry, and spice with a touch of oak. Any grilled meats, including burgers, would be perfect with this lovely wine.
This village-level wine is made under 1er Cru Standards from a historic domain founded in 1750, only one of six original producers in the region.
A combination of fruit from the chalky and clay vineyards of Viré and the oyster fossil marls of Clessé, the wine reveals an alluring minerality.
Aromas and flavors are of peaches and apples with a spicy finish. Serve it as an aperitif or with light seafood and raw vegetable dishes.
9. 2017 El Enemigo Chardonnay Mendoza $24.98
Alejandro Vigil, one of the most well-known winemakers in Argentina, has delivered not only the highest-rated but the most unusual Chardonnay.
Made like a Fino Sherry with a little flor, the wine is toasty, spicy, with lemons, apples, and a salty note. The racy acidity keeps it refreshing even with the full body. A long finish reveals a bit of honey. This wine can stand up to heartier dishes.
This exclusive wine sourced from the prized La Consulta vineyard in Uco Valley is crystalline and pure in fruit flavor. Green apples and ripe pears mingle with refreshing citrusy acidity.
The vineyards are high-elevation at 3,000+ feet, and the fruit comes from vines over 20 years old - a beautiful example of the best from Argentina. Grilled chicken makes a lovely pairing.
Spear Vineyard, located in the neighborhood of Seasmoke in the Santa Rita Hills, is farmed organically in sandy loam. Little sulfur was used during the winemaking process.
The wine smells of baked apples and pears which follow into the palate. Vanilla, toasted hazelnuts, and nutmeg coat the mouth and are lifted by vivid acidity. Serve with foods prepared with butter.
The fanciful name "Melodeon" is the name of a type of foot-pumped organs from the 19th century.
If you are ready to splurge, there is no better high-acid wine than Chablis, which is well-known for this style.
A historic producer, Domaine Billaud-Simon was founded in 1815 and acquired by Domaine Faiveley in 2014. It is managed separately and remains dedicated to maintaining its style.
The grapes were harvested early to hold the natural acidity better. An energetic wine with aromas of honeysuckle, lemons, and peaches, it feels rich in the mouth. This is an elegant and balanced wine with a fresh minerality.
While Chablis is a good food wine, savor it alone to experience the full impact.
Big Hammer Wines: Your Best Choice for High-Acid Summer Wine
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