In my quest to find out what you really want to know, I’ve started checking search analytics. It’s intriguing to see that the most common searches are concerned with acid in wine. The search terms are things like: less acidic white wine, red wine with low acidity, low acid wine list
Wine is high in acid
The first thing to know is that wine is a tart beverage. Unless you enjoy eating fresh lemons, wine is more acidic than just about any food you can think of. That’s why it’s so easy to pair with food. The acidity is cleansing.
On the pH scale, zero is tart (battery acid), seven is neutral (water) and 14 is alkaline (lye, Drano). Wine normally falls somewhere in the threes. For cool-climate wine it may even dip down into the high twos – very, very tart!
The influence of climate
That said, white wines tend to be higher in acid than reds, from 3.0 – 3.5 where reds are usually between 3.3 and 3.8 (I know this is confusing: as the acid goes up, the pH goes down.) It depends upon the variety and the climate. Warm climates produce soft acidity and cool, the opposite. Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling are naturally tart and Chardonnay changes with the environment: warm climate Chards, like most of California or Australia, tend to be soft and cool-climate examples, like Chablis or white Burgundy, are tart.
So, for low acid wines, in general, seek out warm climate examples: As we said, most of California and Australia, southern Italy, Argentina, eastern Washington… and keep in mind that the whites are higher than the reds.
I’m sorry to say that most of Europe falls into the cool-climate column. Of course, latitude makes a difference and Germany is waaay different from Sicily.
When you’re shopping and considering a specific wine, if you go to the winery website they often have notes that identify the pH. They may also identify the acid, but the pH is a more accurate indicator (in many cases the acid stated is only for the main grape acid – the tartaric acid – so it doesn’t tell the whole story.)
You might think sweet wines are low in acid but they’re not! The winemakers balance the sweetness with acidity so the wine doesn’t turn out tasting like pancake syrup.
Popular low-acid whites: Viognier, Marsanne and Semillon. For reds, I’d go more by climate than variety but watch out for Barbera, Sangiovese, Carignane and Grenache. They’re naturally high in acidity. Again, check the pH.
Acid vs. Tannin
But there’s this other thought nagging at me on this subject. And, that’s that lots of folks confuse acid with tannin because it’s hard to tell the difference.
To cut to the chase on tasting the difference, acid tastes tart and makes your mouth water, especially along the sides of your tongue. Tannin makes your mouth water, too, but it’s a delayed reaction. The biggest sensory difference is that tannin turns your mouth into a desert. It seeks out protein in your mouth, which is everywhere, and gloms on to it. There’s a sense of grip. It also adds to the wine’s bitterness.
Red wines are almost always more tannic than whites because the juice is fermented with the grape skins and the skins are the main tannin source. Whites are most often fermented as juice only.
Just as different varieties differ in acidity, some grapes are more tannic than others. Pinot Noir is thin skinned so not very tannic. Cabernet Sauvignon has a tough, chewy skin with lots of tannin. But the winemaker can manipulate things a great deal. Syrah is normally a very tannic variety, but a client just sent me a very smooth example to write about.
Popular low-tannin reds: Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Gamay (or Beaujolais wine), Barbera, Tempranillo
More detail on acid and tannin.
Posts like this make me wish I’d paid attention in chemistry class!
So, if you need low-acid wine for health reasons, I hope this is helpful. If you simply want a smoother experience, go for low-tannin reds or stick with whites. Cheers!
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30 responses to “Low-Acid Wine”
Actually, I think Pinot Noir and Sangiovese are two special exceptions – They are thin skinned grapes that are both relatively high in tannins (esp sangiovese is quite high! Pinot’s tannins will depend on old world/new world climate). Also, most Italian varieties will be high in acid (that is why they pair so well with tomato sauce)! So, stay away from Sangiovese & Barbera if you want a low-acid red! 🙂 Hope that helps a bit!
Hi, bm. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on Pinot Noir and Sangiovese being tannic. Maybe you’ve been so fortunate as to drink more Brunello than Chianti! The clone of Sangiovese they use in Montalcino does make tannic wine. But, when I look at the world of SG, it’s most often fairly sleek and smooth. It’s tart, and acid can accentuate tannin, but I still find that most of them go down easy unless they’re painfully tart. And, you can find tannic Pinot Noir monsters occasionally but in my experience they’re the exception more than the rule. For any readers who want more on Pinot Noir or Sangiovese my favorite source is Jancis Robinson: PN: http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/jrs03402SG: http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/jrs03410Thanks, again for writing. Cheers!
Hi Nancy. I was particularly interested to read the recommendations regarding low acidic wine. I have found recently while in France, that the optimum answer is to drink plenty of water. I only drink reds now but find them rather heavy in this weather-do you have any thoughts on this? Caron Spencer-Jones
Hi Caron. I’m glad that drinking water helps to dilute the acidity and congratulations on finding low-acid wines in France, a country that tends to run tart when it comes to wine (and some would say to attitude 😉
Low acid whites: Viognier. Warm-climate Chardonnay (most of California and Australia). You can check the winemaker notes that most wineries post on their website. Look for pH above 3.4 or acid below 7 grams/liter. Beaujolais style reds actually take a chill fairly well – great with grilled burgers! good luck! nancy
I suffer from extreme anxiety/stress due to various reasons. I have been suffering from this from a long time. After many tests done in hospital in Scotland `i have been diagnosed with gastritis, Oesophegitis and possible Hiatus-Hernia, I have been prescribed omeprazole and medication to help with the anxiety. I feel if I could relax more my stomach would help, I would like to have the od glass of wine, I used to enjoy a glass of white wine but it did cause me to suffer from heartburn. Just wondering what specific red wine anyone with similar problems to me has had without causing too much problems.
Wine is always going to be acidic. I had the same problem and it was being caused by wine.
2 small pegs (30ml) of single malt may be more agreeable
Hard to argue with that! Cheers!
Hi Brenda ,
I have the same issues as you do. I take Omeperozole and Lexapro for anxiety. With the acid reflux I thought my wine days were over !! But occasionally a few glasses per week does me well. I would suggest STELLA ROSA (purchased at Walmart)
DUPLIN BALD HEAD RED (Walmart)
LIL BOSCOE (purchased at the winery )
Good Luck !! I thinm you will like these without the heartburn:-)
I too have GERD with a hiatal hernia and IBS, and every night have a glass of Liberty Creek Merlot, which is very low acid and low alcohol, only 12%! Works like a charm…
Enjoy any wine…
“Either give me more wine or leave me alone.” ― Rumi, circa 1200′s
I love Cavit Pinot Griego and have been drinking it for years but due to worsening GERD it is now burning my esophagus and leaves me feeling sick. Other types of alcohol don’t do that but I like wine. Can you suggest a wine that might be similar to Pinot Grigio with a highe PH and low acid? Thanks.
Hi, Ann! So sorry to tell you that there is no such thing as low acid wine and, unfortunately, white wine is usually higher in acid than red.
The only thing you can do is to seek out whites from warm climate situations, like most of California and Australia. The heat cooks off some of the acidity but, even then, the wine is still very high in acid with a pH between 3.0 and 4.0 Viognier is a relatively low-acid white variety, but it doesn’t taste like Pinot Grigio at all, and it still falls between 3.0 and 4.0.
As you’ve noticed, spirits and beer are lower in acid than wine. How much depends upon which style.
I must say, readers, that about 90% of the questions I receive are on this very topic! I wish I could change reality, but wine is an acidic beverage, with no exceptions that I’m aware of.
My best to you – Nancy
Thank you Nancy! As bad as this information is, you summed it all up in this one post. Wine is full of acid, and there is no such thing as no acid or low acid wine to hope and hunt for. I’m not happy about it, but my hunt is now over. Not worth the sleepless gastritis nights! Thank you again.
Thank you for taking the time to write. I’m glad to be of help, even if the news isn’t quite what you were hoping for. And I’m sorry you have to exclude wine from your diet, but there are so many other pleasures in life to enjoy. My best to you. Nancy
Carmenere from Chile is very low in acid but lately the taste is so bad that I can not drink it any more.
Thanks for chiming in, Tarzan. Gosh, with a handle like “Tarzan” I wish there was a photo! I’m sorry you’re not enjoying Chilean Carmenere lately. There must be some good ones out there. I haven’t had one in quite awhile, myself. Just to caution those who might rush out to buy a low-acid Carmenere, “low acid” for wine is still very acid as food and beverages go, with the pH between 2.9 and 4.0, so careful! Cheers!
The pH scale os logarithmic, so pH 3 is ten times as acidic as ph 4. If I’m drinking an inexpensive white wine, I dilute it 3 to 1 with water. I know, gross to some people, and no, I don’t do that to an Oregon pinot noir! Being a biochemist, I keep pH paper test strips at home. With practice, I’ve become adept at adding just the right size “pinch” of baking soda to bring a white wine up from pH3.1 to 3.6 and the difference is amazing! Yes I have reflux problems. Raising the pH of a wine about a half a pH unit drops the acidity by around five-fold! Think: a five ounce glass of “tamed” vino with only the acidity of a couple sips of tart stuff. Of course, if the pH gets up past 4 the wine will taste bland. But at 3.6 to 3.8, wonderful to drink vino without heartburn. As they say: your mileage may vary, I’m not a medical dr., ask your M.D., etc, etc. Hope those two methods help.
How kind of you to take the time to make these suggestions! Thank you!
I have chronic systemic candida plus allergies to other molds. I’m taking mold shots. Red wines bother my bladder. I also have Acid Reflux. I love the idea of adding a pinch soda, but what white wine is generally a balanced wine? I can’t do sweet or acidic. I like sauvigon blanc and pinot grigio. I guess I should try something with water like bourbon, but I only drink wine..
Hi, Charlean. I’m so sorry about the health issues. I’m on pretty shaky ground trying to help as I’m not a physician. All I can say is that all wine is high in acid. Even poorly balanced wine. Another reader suggested dilution and that was an excellent suggestion. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are usually on the upper end of the scale when it comes to acidity. I wish I had more comforting news for so many of you who write in about acid sensitivity, but I’m afraid that the high acid plays an important role in the overall balance of the wine. Best wishes.
your post intrigued me. I’ve recently been diagnosed with reflux problems, and I’m an avid wine lover. I don’t drink every day, but I love a good wine with dinner when I go out for dinner.
When I was diagnosed, I thought it was the end of the world 😦 regarding food and wine. I’m starting to get a bit more hopeful.
Do you use baking soda in red wine ?
Thank you for writing. Mr. Reed’s comments make the first time I have heard of this suggestion. I have not tried it myself. If you want to try it, you might just adjust one glass of wine rather than potentially ruining a whole bottle. The pH is one of the real fundamentals when it comes to balance in wine, so the adjustment could very noticeably alter the wine. Good luck!
I suffer with an acid stomach but just love red wine so if i go to a pub or drink it at home i always dilute it with soda water ! Its a very pleasant drink ! Janice .
I notice every time I eat a steak and drink a red moscato paired it causes stomach upset. Is this due to too much acid in the wine? I’m not a fan of dry wine, but maybe can you suggest something else with the steak that I might can try? Or should I just dilute the moscato? Thanks
Hi, Alison. Thanks for commenting. I’m not a physician so I can’t help you with diagnosis. But, if you’ve had a similar reaction when you eat acidic foods, like a salad with a tart vinaigrette, it could be acid sensitivity. If other wines haven’t bothered you, then acid isn’t the problem because all wine is high in acid. Dilution is a very simple and effective way to reduce the acidity so if you believe the acid is to blame, yours is a good suggestion! Best of luck!
I would like a red wine with which to make red wine stock. The recommendation is to use a red wine that is low in both acids and tannins (http://www.jimcooks.com/blog/index.php/2013/12/chicken/). Argentinian wines have been suggested. Can you please suggest some red wines that would fit this category?
Hi, Michelle. Thanks for writing! I think Malbec, the most popular variety in Argentina, is a good suggestion. There are tannins, but they are usually moderate. And Malbec from warm and sunny Mendoza should be soft of acidity (as opposed to the French counterparts). Another suggestion is Merlot. Again, the French ones may be high in acid, except maybe the ones from the Languedoc, but from sunny places like California or Australia you should be fine. Happy cooking! I hope that helps!