The Role of Citric Acid in Wine and Winemaking
Citric acid plays a major role in the biochemisty of the grape vine and bacteria. It is an intermediate in the TCA cycle, which provides molecular energy for cellular function. However, its role in wine is far less important.
Most, if not all of the citric acid naturally present in the grapes is consumed by bacteria during fermentation. The absence of citric acid would bring the fermentation process to a grinding halt, this almost never happens though.
Citric acid plays a major role in a winemakers influence on acidity. Many winemakers use citric acid to acidify wines that are too basic and as a flavor additive. This process has is benefits and drawbacks. Adding citric acid will give the wine “freshness” otherwise not present and will effectively make a wine more acidic.
The major disadvantage of adding citric acid is its microbial instability. As mentioned earlier, bacteria use citric acid in their metabolism, thus the citric acid added may just be consumed by bacteria, promoting the growth of unwanted microbes.
Because of its microbial instability, winemakers will often use tartaric acid to acidify wines. Tartaric acid offers many advantages like a high degree of microbial stability and a stronger influence on total acidity.
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