Viogner, UC Davis
I know we’re past Valentine’s Day now, but why not give it a long finish and take a look at this very exotic, sexy grape.
Sexy? Absolutely. Sensual? Oh, yeah…
What to expect
If you haven’t gotten around to trying Viognier, please let me encourage you to take the plunge and dive into what Jancis Robinson has referred to as “The hedonist’s white wine.”
This is one big, voluptuous kiss of ripe peaches and apricots, orange blossom, tropical fruit and honeysuckle. And heady, too. Viognier won’t let loose with all those wonderful aromatics unless it’s plenty ripe, so it’s quite common for it to be upwards of 14% alcohol. Of course, the alcohol gives it considerable heft, by white-wine standards so when you’re feeling burnt out on Chardonnay you can easily substitute the highly perfumed Viognier.
I’ve learned the hard way that It isn’t easy to get it right. Poorly made, it can remind you of the syrup in the can of fruit cocktail your Mom served you when you were a kid (I suppose I’m dating myself here.)
It’s usually dry but occasionally you’ll find a sweet one. Not my cup of tea – the sweetness can be cloying – Viognier isn’t a high-acid grape. Some examples have oak imposed on them, which is hard to understand for a grape with so much up-front charm. If there’s a chance to taste before you buy, go for it! Continue reading
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. Continue reading