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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.