Wine Word of the Week: Acidification

By Kori ~ January 11th, 2011.

This week’s Wine Word of the Week is acidification.

Official definition from Jancis Robinson’s The Oxford Companion to Wine:
Acidification is the wine-making process of increasing the acidity in a grape must or wine. This is a common practice in warm wine regions, and is often the only course open to a winemaker wanting to make a balanced wine from grapes which have been allowed a growing season long enough to develop flavour by reaching full physiological ripeness. This is because in warm conditions a large amount of the grape’s natural malic acid is degraded during the ripening process. A good level of acids (and therefore low pH) not only increases the apparent freshness and fruitiness of many wines, it also protects the wine against attack from bacteria, enhances the effectiveness of sulfur dioxide, and can improve colour. ….

The timing of the acid addition varies, but adding acid usually lowers pH so that an addition before or during fermentation results in better microbiological control of subsequent processes and favours the formation of desirable aromas. Fine tuning of acid levels may take place at the final blending stage but acid added at this stage can be too obvious.

Regulations vary from country to country but the most common permitted additives for acidification are, in descending order, tartaric acid, citric acid, and malic acid. ….

Layman’s terms from Kori:
Acidification is a winemaking process sometimes employed by winemakers to achieve balance in a finished wine. The acid level of the wine is adjusted by adding acid, most often tartaric acid, to low-acid wines especially in warm climates. Acidification is subject to varying regulations in different states and countries.

Filed under: Wine Word of the Week

Reader's Comments

  1. Eryn | January 11th, 2011 at 9:07 am

    I cannot seem to find the Washington State laws on acidification and chapitalization in wine. Are both the processes legal here?

  2. Kori | January 12th, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Good questions. It seems like I’ve heard that acidification is okay in Washington but not chaptalization; however, I don’t know where I’ve heard that. If anyone else knows for sure, please feel free to share. Cheers!