Mantra of a Texas Winemaker in the Summer of Our Discontent: Acidulate, Acidulate, Dance to the Music!

(Nice hair! See video.)

Mantra of a Texas Winemaker in the Summer of Our Discontent: Acidulate, Acidulate Dance to the Music!

If the world was a perfect place, the mantra of all Texas winemakers would be…”Our wines are made without the use of enzymes, and no addition or acid (acidulation) is ever employed in the  winemaking process.”

However, in year’s like this where the summer starts out hot and only gets hotter as it progresses from June through August (even Gov. Perry’s started praying for a break!), the fruit in Texas vineyards this year is ripe. The brix is high, the berries are small, but the acid low. What’s a Texas winemaker to do? Well, suck it up and acidulate, that’s what. To hell with natural winemaking.

According to Texas winemaking guru, Jack Keller who has likely made wine from anything and everything possible, “Acids give wines their characteristic crisp, slightly tart taste. Alcohol, sugars, minerals, and other components moderate the sourness of acids and give wines balance. Natural acids have the freshest, purest acid tastes. Among grapes they are  tartaric, malic and citric. Oxalic acid, found for example in rhubarb (Yes, some people do make wine from rhubarb),  is another natural acid.”

But, how much of an acid addition to use is to some extent a matter of individual taste, but as a general rule, natural acidity in grapes is inversely proportional to ripeness, so if you like crisp, tart wines from northerly climates like Germany, the Loire Valley or Chablis, you may be an acid-head; while if you – like Mr. Parker – prefer softer, fatter wines from warmer New World climates or hotter vintages, your tolerance for acidity may be more limited.

Usually, the negative issue with acidulation is, if done in excess, the resultant wines are harsh on the palate and bitter to the taste, particularly on the finish. So, acidulation is a double edge sword. It is something that in this “Summer of our Discontent”, may be the bain of natural winemakers, but it’s something of a necessity. However, Mr. Winemaker, please do it with a careful hand.

So, to the tune of the Three Dog Night… “Acidulate, acidulate, dance to the music!”

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From John Bratcher….Summer in Texas

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Love to taste, talk and tweet about Texas wines and where they are in the global scheme for wines. After all that's the only way they will reach the full potential.


  1. “Our wines are made without use of enzymes, fining agents, acid additions, blah, blah, blah.”

    Get real man, we can’t even honestly say “No animals were harmed in the production of our wines.” I got dead coons, dead possums and dead snakes in abundance.

  2. Now Jim!

    Be careful you many be giving away some Texas winemakinig secrets.

    Maybe more likely, some US government offical will read you comments and think that these critters need to be added to the Texas wine labels. You know…truth in labeling and all that!

    Thanks for reading VintageTexas.


  3. Even though the grapes are “ripe,” does that necessarily mean they are “mature’? I ask because I’ve heard differing views regarding that, and that even though the grapes may be ripe, they aren’t mature, and flavors don’t get developed.

    • No it does not mean that they are mature. It actually can work both ways and needs to be considered in the winemaking process.

      Some red grapes have achieved ripeness in terms of Brix level, but still have not reached true phenolic ripeness of the tannins deep down inside the grapes (in the seeds – e.g. before the seeds ripened and provide a soft nutty quality. This can happen in rapidly ripening grapes (e.g. during hot weather where the hang time of the grapes is limited). One technique to amiliorate this problem is to get the grape must off the seed byseparating them out during pumpovers during fermention or allowing the seed to settle to the bottom of the fermentor where they are be extracted.

      The alternative scenario is usually found with white aromatic grapes. They can reach aromatic ripeness in advance of true grape maturity at which point the grapes many have lost too much acidity or developed unwanted qualities. Therefore, the grapes can be harvested early at 20-22 Brix, pressed and the juice fermented cold into a very palatable white aromatic wine.

  4. Do you remember Tom Lehrer’s song “The Vatican Rag?” Same thing. First you get down on your knees, fiddle with your rosaries, bow your head with great respect, and “acidulate, acidulate, acidulate”

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