Monthly Archives: June 2013

Selecting Low-Acid Wine

bottles on shelf

Question from John: My wife and I enjoy wine but increasingly she is effected by high acid. Are there any specific brands that you would suggest that are low acid taste good reasonably priced? Both red and white? Thanks for your help.

Reply: Hi, John. Thanks for writing. I’m afraid that wine is acidic by nature. Virtually all of the world’s wines fall between 2.8 and 4.0 on the pH scale.

Pardon my digression, here, for those unfamiliar: On the pH scale, zero is acid (battery acid), seven is neutral (water) and 14 is alkaline (lye, Drano). W

Whites are most often between 2.8 and 3.6 and reds between 3.3 and 4.0. The higher the pH the more bacteria-friendly the environment, meaning an increased risk of spoilage, so this is simple reality for winemakers. Above 3.8 and color stability is compromised. Plus, of course, the wine tastes better when the acid is balanced.

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Whites Get Deeper, Reds Lighten Up

It’s a wine oddity. As white wine ages it deepens in color, while reds actually lighten up. Here’s a brief explanation:

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Q and A: Balanced Wine

Sarah wrote in because she’s noticed that the term “well balanced” turns up often in wine descriptions. She’s not quite sure what it means. Here’s a brief explanation:

Maybe you chemists and microbiologists can weigh in and enlighten us with other possible causes? Cheers!

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Cluster Thinning in the Vineyard

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Napa Valley came through flowering quite nicely this year, thank you very much, and the crop is looking good.

Vineyard managers should have finished up with springtime shoot thinning by now – a way of keeping the vine in balance. And, now that we have cute little baby grape clusters hanging, it’s time to take a close look.

Believe it or not, part of managing a crop destined for fine wine production (as opposed to most wine) is counting the clusters. Yes, literally.

After the lovely weather we had during flowering (rain, hail, high winds and extreme heat can cause problems) there’s a very good chance that there are bonus, unexpected clusters out there. Unfortunately, for fine wine, more isn’t better.

If there are far more than expected there’s a chance those grapes will never get ripe, but in our climate, that’s rarely the concern. It’s just that if you add a few extra clusters per vine, the flavors can become diluted. This stuff isn’t regulated but It’s really hard to get $40.00+ for a bottle of Cab that’s kind of thin and lackluster.

Or, it could be that you see a kind of short, wimpy looking shoot in there with 3 clusters on it. There’s no way there are enough leaves on that shoot to bring three clusters to maturity. Better to go with one or two clusters, depending upon just how wimpy…

So it’s quite common to see tiny little clusters scattered on the ground around the vine rows this time of year in Napa Valley.

Shoot, leaf and cluster thinning are ongoing activities that begin in April and can continue almost up to harvest time, depending upon how things shape up. Vineyard management has become almost like gardening!

Next big event: veraison – when the grapes turn color, probably late next month.

Anybody out there making plans to visit wine country and see any of this stuff up close and personal?

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Malbec is French!

At a tasting the other day, when the host referred to Malbec as a Bordeaux variety the guy sitting  next to me said “I thought Malbec is from Argentina.” And, well you might think, since Argentina has truly made this grape their own. Here’s the story in brief:

What’s your favorite Malbec? Got any great values for us to try? C’mon! Let us know!

Visit A Million Cooks for more brief videos from experts on the food you eat: Where it comes from, where to buy it and how to prepare it.

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