‘Lemony’, ‘citrussy’, ‘refreshing’, ‘clean’: you often see these words in descriptions of wine. What they’re really saying is that the wine has plenty of acidity, but in a good way. And, so long as the acidity doesn’t dominate and is in balance with the rest of the flavours, I’d generally agree that some acidity in a wine is a positive. It can make the wine more refreshing and attractive on the palate and it can also help make it more food-friendly by cutting through any richness or greasiness in a dish. But a few people – including a very good friend of ours – are particularly sensitive to acidity and my ‘lemony-freshness’ becomes their ‘tart and shudderingly unpleasant’. As a result, they need to choose their wine very carefully.
Wines made from certain grapes tend to be naturally more acidic than others: famous varieties Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon all fall into this category. So, despite their attractions for the rest of us, acidity-haters should concentrate their attention elsewhere. But it’s not just the grape variety that’s important: as grapes ripen, the level of sugar in them increases but the level of acidity decreases, so wines from warmer regions of the world, where the grapes are likely to be riper, will, in general, be less acidic than those from cooler climates. Those are two useful factors to bear in mind but, as with much in the wine world, things are not as simple as that: some producers actually add acidity during the winemaking process – it’s quite legal and they would argue that they’re just compensating for what would otherwise be an unbalanced wine.
So, where should those who dislike acidity look? The pictures above suggest a few good places to start: for white wines, Gewurztraminer, Viognier and Semillon are all varieties that are naturally quite low in acidity while, for reds, Tempranillo – the main Rioja grape – or Grenache – a key player in many Côtes du Rhônes, are the same. And, watch out for wines made by less interventionist winemakers, as they are less likely to have acidity added.
But, most of all, taste widely and, if you find wines that suit your palate, stick with them.