Refreshing, crisp, mouthwatering and tooth-tingling are just a few terms found in any wine writer's thesaurus to describe acidity. They all sound better than sour.
But sour wine is and that's not a bad thing. The grape's tartaric, malic and other acids aid in vine respiration, fermentation, appearance, stability and longevity. And beyond acid's vini-viticultural ramifications, it tastes good.
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Chablis "Champs Royaux"
William Fevre 2008
• Suggested retail and availability: About $23 at wine and liquor stores (distributed by Southern Wine and Spirits, Bolingbrook)
"You can never be too rich or too lean." This famous lifestyle mantra's paraphrase might serve as William Fevre's winemaking philosophy, even in the entry-level "Champs Royaux." Ample minerality and green apple flavor are clearly defined by firm, lean acidity, all growing richer through the satisfying finish. Serve as a stylish aperitif and complement to shellfish, seafood salads and white meats. With this polish and finesse, your friends will never guess it's chardonnay.
Like a squeeze of lemon on fish, wine's acid brightens food flavors and enlivens the palate, making it eager for the next bite.
Summertime cuisine calls especially for wine's tart acidity to mirror the tart flavors of tomatoes, salad greens with vinaigrette and seafood with lemon or mignonette sauce. So while our summer sun is shining, here are two styles for rich acidity to add to your palate's vocabulary:
Chablis: 100 percent chardonnay as Nature and French law intend it to be. A northernmost climate coupled with unique chalky soil express green apple flavors accented by savory depth and mineral intensity. The 2008 vintage opened with spring hail, damaging vines and reducing crop. But a sunny, dry September prevailed, balancing complex flavors and firm acidity. Chablis vineyards are ranked from the regional entry-level (see Ross' Choice) to Premier (such as Brocard's concentrated 2007 Chablis "Vaulorent", about $40) and Grand Cru (William Fevre's unctuous 2008 Chablis "Bougros" about $70), ascending in quality and price.
Barbera: Appealing red fruit flavors, soft tannin and rich acidity make Barbera second only to Sangiovese as Italy's most-planted grape and first choice at pizza parlors around the world. Northern Italy's Piedmont region produces the finest, with Barbera d'Asti yielding lighter "feminine" flavors and Barbera d'Alba rich, meaty and "masculine." Serve with tomato-based dishes including pasta, chili and jambalaya. Recommended producers include Paolo Scavino (about $20) and Stefano Farina (about $15).
• Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross writes Good Wine. Contact her at email@example.com.