Ever bite into a lime after taking a tequila shot? Or if you don’t take tequila shots (or you don’t need something to ease the pain), perhaps you’ve tried to quench your thirst with a glass of lemonade on a hot summer day. Either way, you know what happens next: your mouth puckers, your salivary glands remind you that you have salivary glands, and you get the urge to say “ahhh” like Susie from Curb Your Enthusiasm.
The presence of acidity (or lack thereof) is one of the most important factors impacting how a wine tastes. The tart, sour notes can make wine seem lighter than it otherwise would, and has even been known to get people to say the word “zesty” out loud.
Acidity acts as a palate cleanser– and coupled with the fact that it complements sweetness, saltiness, and fat – high-acid wines are very versatile when pairing with food. See for yourself by drinking Champagne with fried chicken or caviar, or notice how the acidity in riesling cuts through the richness of both grilled cheeses and lobster rolls.
Speaking of riesling, it’s a variety that’s often made in sweet styles. Why then, would a bottle with 100 grams of residual sugar not taste like liquified Pixy Stix? The answer is acidity. Acidity and sweetness balance each other out to the point that raw lemons and Coca-Cola are equally acidic, and yet biting into one sounds like a punishment, while drinking the other is (for better or worse) an American pastime.
All of this is to say: acidity is important in wine. And while not everyone enjoys the tartness it brings with it, you should find out whether or not you’re a fan. To do that, check out wines from cooler climates, like Chablis, Champagne, and Germany. For reds, pick up something from Burgundy, Barolo, or the Northern Rhône. It’s no coincidence that pretty much all of those wines can age for years, if not decades, so if you’re in the market for wines that can stand the test of time, you’re likely in the market for wines with a solid amount of acidity.