Why High-Acid Wines are So Refreshing

Ben Wiseman
Sommeliers worship high-acid wines that are super-refreshing and incredible with food. Here’s an acid education.

Sommeliers worship high-acid wines that are super-refreshing and incredible with food. Here’s an acid education.

High Acid Is a Good Thing
Chefs and sommeliers love acidity for the exact same reason: Just as a chef uses vinegar to deglaze a pan to make a sauce, a sommelier pours a high-acid wine to perk up a customer’s palate. Riesling, Chablis and Muscadet (to name three high-acid whites) pair exceptionally well with rich dishes because they’re so refreshing, and with tangy foods because the acidities are so in sync.

Seafood Whites
Albariño is exactly what you want to drink when you’re having a platter of oysters or anything fried at the clam shack. The good news is that there’s better and better Albariño coming to the US from Rías Baixas in northwest Spain as winemakers get serious about region-specific bottlings. Rías Baixas has the perfect climate for producing vibrant wines, thanks to its craggy soil and proximity to the Atlantic. Cold ocean breezes preserve acids 
in grapes and even give the wines a little salinity.

Steakhouse Reds

Steakhouses are synonymous with behemoth Cabernet Sauvignon, the idea being that big cuts of meat pair best with big wines. But now sommeliers are investigating more restrained pairings, putting medium-bodied, less overtly tannic wines like Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir on their lists. These wines tend to have noticeable acidity, which helps cut through the fattiness of the meat, and makes vegetarians happy, too.

3 Things to Look For If You Like Zesty Wines
1. High-altitude regions
Collio, located near the Alps in northern Italy, is famous for its zippy whites, like Pinot Bianco.

2. Cool-climate areas
Germany’s Mosel rarely tops 65 degrees, even in July, which is why its Rieslings have such great acidity.


3. Cold vintages
New Zealand’s Marlborough was cold throughout the entire 2012 season—scary for the grape growers, but excellent for high-acid Pinot Noir lovers.

Bottles to Try
2013 Salomon Undhof Hochterrassen Grüner Veltliner ($15)
Sourcing fruit from steep vineyards in Austria’s Kremstal, the Salomons have been making wines like this vivid Grüner for centuries.


2014 FEL Pinot Gris ($25)
A combination of California sunshine and cool northern Anderson Valley vineyards gives this wine juicy fruit flavors and a citrusy kick.

2013 Do Ferreiro Albariño ($28)

Gerardo Méndez gets grapes for this Albariño from the chilly, hyper-coastal Salnès subregion of Spain’s Rías Baixas. The wine is fragrant, tart and mouthwatering.

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