Enologists break down the acidity in wine into three categories; total acidity, pH and volatile acidity. The fact that acidity is broken down in this way shows its importance. The relationship between acidity and balance looks something like this:
> Sweet Taste (sugars + alcohols) <= => Acid Taste (acids) + Bitter Taste (phenols)
The best wines strike a perfect balance between these three components. Acidity’s role in this dynamic is undeniably important.
Acidity in Wine and Grapes
The development of acid begins in vineyard. Acidity in grapes changes over the course of berry maturity, and its presence is loosely associated with the acidity in the final product. Winemaking, specifically alcoholic fermentation, changes the content and concentration of acidity in wine. Additionally, winemakers can manipulate acidity to balance the above equation.
If the importance of acid is relative to phenols, sugars and alcohols; why do enologists separate acidity into three categories? For the most part, it’s to confuse us. However, it is classified this way to distinguish between the types of acid and their contribution to the acidity in the final product. This way, enologists can isolate what needs to be done to adjust the various types of acidity.
Total acidity takes into account all of the acids in wine. Interactions between the acids and the other chemical components are extremely complicated, yet each of these plays a role in the measurement of total acidity.
The amount of volatile acid is small with respect to total acidity. The main reason why it is in its own category is because it is closely associated with quality. Additionally, winemakers monitor volatile acidity, because it is an indication of spoilage.
Fixed acidity is measured as total acidity minus volatile acidity. Generally, pH is a quantitative assessment of fixed acidity. The concept of pH is abstract, and knowing the details is not as important is understanding the relationship between acidity and balance in the wine.
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