Welcome back to my
nerdy rants Acid series. So last time I bored you with a long blah-blah-blah about the nature of acid in the wine-making process with regards to microbial stability. This time I’m rambling on about balance.
Balance is a wonderful wine-snob word, it’s up there with the scary words like “complexity” and “nuance”. It does however, have a very important and real meaning: it means that the astringent and the sweet characteristics of the wine are such that neither over-whelms the other. Think of soda: ever have flat coke? Nasty, no? The carbonation is astringent and it provides balance for the sugar, so without it, the drink just tastes “out of balance”, which I guess is a fancy way of saying it’s gross. Ever think of sparkling water as hard to drink? That’s because the astringency from the carbonation has nothing to smooth it out.
Ok, so that’s balance. Now we have to balance a wine. So what are the sweet elements and what are the astringent elements?
To the Graph!!!
Sweet Elements Astringent Elements
Sugar (surprise!) Acidity
Polysaccharides (ahhh! Big word!
Just think of it as fruit flavor from the skins.)
Polyhydric alcohols (I’m not even going to try)
Thank you Graph! So basically, we need to make sure that we have enough sweet elements to make sure the acidity and tannins don’t make the wine harsh, but we need enough astringent elements to add some kick and keep the wine from tasting like flat soda. Of course, every palate is going to perceive this differently, but that’s the basic idea.
So this makes our case of the Casella adding oodles of acid to the incoming wines pretty self-explanatory. How did they avoid the wines getting too acidic? They added plenty of oak, added a small touch of sugar just before bottling, and everything was hunky dorey. Pretty simple, actually.
Uh-oh, here comes a tangent!
What was especially interesting was the way they treated the higher end wines. They came in with higher tannin levels and got the same acid treatment. So I one day was talking to a wine-maker and asked him how they compensated for the acid- sugar? Not sugar, they just let the “fruit quality” balance it out.
What does that mean?
To me, it has to be the polysaccharides. In the grape, the pulp is made primarily from water, and the skins, you guessed it, polysaccharides. If you have a larger skin presence, you have more of said compounds, and it makes sense that they would provide some sweetness elements, giving you a softer, richer wine. (If you want to hear me REALLY nerd out on this, I’ve got more to the theory, hit me up, I’ve got evidence!)
So that’s it. That’s acidity and balance in a nutshell. There’s still a lot to acid, however, for instance, how it affects EVERYTHING! Stay tuned!