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pHat Wines


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Has anyone noticed a trend in California wines toward a much fatter pH style? A softer mouthfeel with tons of oak that make young wines fresh off the bottling line seem rich and succulent. My beef is that although this seems to be what many consumers (and writers) desire, the longevity of the wine is compromised because there's not enough "high fruit" and crisp acidity to carry the wine out for even 7-10 years. Wines with a high pH get flabby fast in the cellar.

Do wine buyers still ask for pH information? Does anyone read it? Does anyone understand what it means? Does anyone care? :unsure:

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Mary Baker

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Not many labels contain this information. Some wineries have it available on their web sites, but that's still only a small number (I seem to find that information provided more frequently on European wine producer web sites than on U.S. ones for some reason).

I would guess much of it is provided to distributors, but I'm not sure how much they really use it with retailers or with the public (at industry tastings).

As far as the trend, it's been happening for some time. I've found more than a few CA Cabs and other reds "drop fruit" much more quickly than one would've originally thought or expected, or even wanted. We need to keep in mind that most of the wine purchased at retail is still purchased by people who are going to drink it within the week. And those who cellar wine are such a miniscule part of the wine buying public. And even those probably have more who are into short-term cellaring. And, of course, the low acid, high oak, lush wine get the high ratings.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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And, of course, the low acid, high oak, lush wines get the high ratings.

Yes, they do, and it's an issue that Dan and I struggled with earlier this year. After all, we're already planning how to style the 2004 vintage (no time to think during harvest), and we have three vintages in barrel.

We finally decided to stick with our signature style. It has less oak and more vineyard presence that the current pHashion, but we've decided that at our level of production it's more important to be consistent and loyal to ourselves and our customer base than to chase higher scores in the lifestyle wine mags. (Parker gives us consistent compliments, and who can't be happy with that?)

Besides, the Wine Spectator's submission sheet has been changed to read that unless they actively "solicit" your wines, you probably won't get reviewed. :unsure:

But back to the pHacts, I see quite a few informal wine reviews in this forum, and whenever I taste a wine I think, Nice Now, Nice Later? and pH vs. acidity is a big part of that.

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Mary Baker

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I am the web guy for a wine agent in Ontario, and when I created our web site, I made the decision to include as much technical information on each wine we sell as possible. Therefore, pH, Total Acidity, Residual Sugar, if the producer supplies it to me, I make it available to our customers. Even if you're not "our" customer, since this is available on our site for many wines, it may be useful to you no matter where you live. (http://www.liffordwineagency.com/)

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Hmmmmm... very interesting discussion. I gotta admit, I've never considered looking at pH whatsoever.

Residual sugar, on the other hand, is something I peruse just to assure that the Gewurtzs I drink are more Alsatian in style than a dessert wine.

Got to investigate this more, me thinks.

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Do wine buyers still ask for pH information? Does anyone read it? Does anyone understand what it means? Does anyone care? :unsure:

I've never seen pH values ever printed on any wine label, and I'm doubtful the average consumer really understands the significance of even alcohol percentage which actually IS on every label..

C.R.

aka "Greg Koetting"

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I've never seen pH values ever printed on any wine label, and I'm doubtful the average consumer really understands the significance of even alcohol percentage which actually IS on every label..

Sorry, I should have been more specific. By "buyers" I meant retailers. I think of the end-user as a "consumer." (Because, I guess, they consume!)

Retailers and reviewers used to be more interested in this information, to the point they'd insist on getting it, and frankly, I'm glad they've loosened up about it because there are so many other factors that influence a wine's character. It's just interesting (to me, at least :rolleyes: ) that retail buyers are either less interested in, or less educated about, what pH and TA mean, and this trend coincides with a rising popularity of wines with a hefty pH. Hmm.

(We still print pH, T.A., and other data on our wine profiles, but a lot of local producers don't.)

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Mary Baker

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I'm always interested to find this information and any other tib bits (harvest date, etc.). But it is very very rarely on the label. I've found it on websites, but often hidden in the "trade only" section, often password protected. I dunno why wineries DON'T post it on their web sites in a section that is available to consumers. I do the majority of my wine research on the 'net and more information is better. I know wineries have a lot going on, but making your web site easy-to-navigate and packed full of info should be at least as important as other marketing activities. Ack, I'm ranting :biggrin:

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I've never seen pH values ever printed on any wine label, and I'm doubtful the average consumer really understands the significance of even alcohol percentage which actually IS on every label..

You're joking about the alcohol percentage, right?

And I think a lot of people have at least some vague idea of what pH is, from their chemistry classes in high school. Whether they understand the effect of a relatively high or low pH on wine, or what "high" and "low" consist of in that context, is another question. What is the usual range of wine pHs?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Thanks, Mary. Do you have any general recommendations of a good wine pH? And does pH have much to do with dry vs. sweet?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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We prefer reds that are 3.6 to 3.8. The Villa Creek Avenger 2001 that recently scored 93 in the Wine Spectator has a pH of 4.06.

While a wine is fermenting, it can be a point or two lower than it's finished pH, so it's not surprising to see the pH climb slightly after primary fermentation, and perhaps again during malolactic, but that doesn't always happen, so no, pH has nothing to do with the finished sweetness of a wine.

When we harvest, we expect the pH to be 3.4 to 3.5.

pH and acidity have more to do with the elements of fruit in a wine. A 3.4 to 3.5 wine would be like a squeeze of lemon, which is desirable in whites like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. A 3.5 to 3.6 wine would have a pleasant, crisp acidity, generally desirable in wines from tank-fermented Chardonnays through mid-weight reds. A 3.6 to 3.8 pH in reds indicates a rounder mouthfeel and probable malolactic conversion, which is customary in reds anyway, but a summertime crispness to the fruit--an acidity that will help the flavors survive years of cellaring. Wines with a pH higher than 3.8, the 3.9 to 4.3 range, have super-soft mouthfeels, and the subdued fruit flavors and gentle acidity blend seamlessly into oak and tannin flavors, but tannin does not preserve fruit flavors by itself--acidity actually balances out the tannic components, and both are needed for a wine to have balanced longevity.

So, I guess the rule of thumb would be: red wines with a very high pH are beautiful wines to be drunk now. Well-crafted reds with a lower pH, 3.6 to 3.8, will not be as fulsome, but they will cellar longer, and appeal more to drinkers who like fruit in their reds.

What do you like?

(Edited because I type faster than I think.)

Edited by DoverCanyon (log)

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Mary Baker

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Thanks, Mary.

I drink only occasionally and I'm definitely not a wine connoisseur, but I do enjoy wine from time to time. With the meal, I usually like wines that are fruity and only moderately dry but have some complexity and a good aftertaste. Probably the best wine I've had in the last several months or so was Sept Grains (I believe from Alsace), which Katie Loeb gave me a taste of. It's made from juices of 7 different varieties of grapes and is like a chameleon, changing taste in my mouth. I enjoy both red and white wines and also like a good dessert wine on occasion.

I really would have little idea what the pH of the wines I've drunk has been, but I love to read labels, so there's no doubt that if the pH were mentioned on the label of a bottle, I would look at it. It's so much fun to drink acqua minerale in Italy and see how all of the ions have been broken down into a list with concentrations noted, and it's so disappointing not to have all that information to look at here in the U.S.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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It's so much fun to . . . see how all of the ions have been broken down into a list with concentrations noted, and it's so disappointing not to have all that information to look at here in the U.S.

((Sshh, the BATF might hear you.)) :laugh:

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Mary Baker

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The residual sugar level will affect the perceived acidity though. For example a wine with little or no residual sugar will taste much sharper and more notably acidic than a wine with the same low pH but more sugar, even though the acidity level is the same. Most great sweet wines have very high acidity levels.

Edited by Dan Ryan (log)
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  • 1 year later...

Science uncorks wine's allure: Researches zero in on compound that influences flavor.

Monday's Sacramento Bee, free registration required.

Scientists from UC Davis and the University of Adelaide in Australia teamed up in the past few years to zero in on one compound that most influences a wine's taste and feel in the mouth, its color and its longevity in the bottle: tartaric acid.

"A little will be quite good, but more can be very good," explained Chris Ford, a senior lecturer in enology at Adelaide University. "Wine is all about balance. A wine with no acid is horrible. Flabby. Jammy. Soapy."

Hurray for acidity. And it's good for you! The article goes on to describe how scientists have identified genomes in grapes and hope to design better grapes and healthier wines with higher levels of Vitamin C. That would be a bonus. I think. :unsure:

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Mary Baker

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Hi all

This conversation is a very slippery slope. We must remember that we are not producing beer. Putting a 'required pH' in your list of criteria for choosing a wine can be dangerous. First, pH is only part of the story. There is still TA to consider which will influence the acid taste of the wine in some respects more than pH. Additionally the pH's quoted below while common in warmer climate wines are still high compared to many wines made in Europe or in cool climates. Further an often difficult problem that many tasters have when say tasting Australian wines is that they are too acidic. The producers in search of a 'good pH' have been forced to add a large amount of the quite harsh tartaric acid. The subject of acidity in wines is quite complex and trying to simplify it into one range of pH's is dangerous.

All that said - I agree that wine should have good acidity and not be like fruit punch regardless of whether you will cellar it or not. Lets just try to decide whether the acidity is good based on what we taste rather than one number associated with the wine.

Cheers!

We prefer reds that are 3.6 to 3.8.  The Villa Creek Avenger 2001 that recently scored 93 in the Wine Spectator has a pH of 4.06. 

While a wine is fermenting, it can be a point or two lower than it's finished pH, so it's not surprising to see the pH climb slightly after primary fermentation, and perhaps again during malolactic, but that doesn't always happen, so no, pH has nothing to do with the finished sweetness of a wine.

When we harvest, we expect the pH to be 3.4 to 3.5. 

pH and acidity have more to do with the elements of fruit in a wine.  A 3.4 to 3.5 wine would be like a squeeze of lemon, which is desirable in whites like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.  A 3.5 to 3.6 wine would have a pleasant, crisp acidity, generally desirable in wines from tank-fermented Chardonnays through mid-weight reds.  A 3.6 to 3.8 pH in reds indicates a rounder mouthfeel and probable malolactic conversion, which is customary in reds anyway, but a summertime crispness to the fruit--an acidity that will help the flavors survive years of cellaring.  Wines with a pH higher than 3.8, the 3.9 to 4.3 range, have super-soft mouthfeels, and the subdued fruit flavors and gentle acidity blend seamlessly into oak and tannin flavors, but tannin does not preserve fruit flavors by itself--acidity actually balances out the tannic components, and both are needed for a wine to have balanced longevity. 

So, I guess the rule of thumb would be:  red wines with a very high pH are beautiful wines to be drunk now.  Well-crafted reds with a lower pH, 3.6 to 3.8, will not be as fulsome, but they will cellar longer, and appeal more to drinkers who like fruit in their reds.

What do you like?

(Edited because I type faster than I think.)

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Has anyone noticed a trend in California wines toward a much fatter pH style?  A softer mouthfeel with tons of oak that make young wines fresh off the bottling line seem rich and succulent.  My beef is that although this seems to be what many consumers (and writers) desire, the longevity of the wine is compromised because there's not enough "high fruit" and crisp acidity to carry the wine out for even 7-10 years.  Wines with a high pH get flabby fast in the cellar.

Do wine buyers still ask for pH information?  Does anyone read it?  Does anyone understand what it means?  Does anyone care?  :unsure:

I believe that you are oversimplifying things a bit.

When wine is the subject --this is always a dicey practice.

Acidity is difficult to discuss without putting it in context.

The interplay between acidity, tannins, ripeness of the fruit, alcohol levels and many other things in wine all contribute to "mouthfeel."

Peynaud notes a "suppleness index" in "Knowing and Making wine" that is--alcoholic strength-(total acidity plus tannins)=suppleness index.

I believe that today's wines are more supple due in large part to the use of riper fruit. just looking at ph levels only tells a small part of the story. In fact--how a wine tastes--especially suppleness and mouthfeel are IMOP difficult to attribute to ph levels alone--the fact is high acidity can be present (this is a measurable thing) and yet not be easily detected by a taster.

This is why IMOP--putting these data on labels is in reality meaningless to a consumer is conveying how a wine will taste.

As for these wines not being able to age well. The indications are--this is simply not true.

For evidence I would submit tasting notes on numerous california Cabs made in the late eighties and early nineties as having drunk very well on release and still drinking well at ten plus years.

I would also add that a number of writers have noted that the Bordeaux from 1959 and 1982 had low acidity and have aged quite nicely. (I am still waiting for my first and super second growth 82's to come around and many other lesser growths are still in good drinking form).

I remember tasting Cal cabs from the seventies that were monolithic monsters-high acidity, less ripe tannins that most definitely did not age well. In fact, the "good old days" produced far fewer wines that in fact did age well then we would often like to remember.

PH--yes it is important but in context things are not so simple.

here is a lot going on in a bottle--or glass of wine!

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Hi all

This conversation is a very slippery slope. We must remember that we are not producing beer. Putting a 'required pH' in your list of criteria for choosing a wine can be dangerous. First, pH is only part of the story. There is still TA to consider which will influence the acid taste of the wine in some respects more than pH. Additionally the pH's quoted below while common in warmer climate wines are still high compared to many wines made in Europe or in cool climates. Further an often difficult problem that many tasters have when say tasting Australian wines is that they are too acidic. The producers in search of a 'good pH' have been forced to add a large amount of the quite harsh tartaric acid. The subject of acidity in wines is quite complex and trying to simplify it into one range of pH's is dangerous.

All that said - I agree that wine should have good acidity and not be like fruit punch regardless of whether you will cellar it or not. Lets just try to decide whether the acidity is good based on what we taste rather than one number associated with the wine.

Cheers!

We prefer reds that are 3.6 to 3.8.  The Villa Creek Avenger 2001 that recently scored 93 in the Wine Spectator has a pH of 4.06. 

While a wine is fermenting, it can be a point or two lower than it's finished pH, so it's not surprising to see the pH climb slightly after primary fermentation, and perhaps again during malolactic, but that doesn't always happen, so no, pH has nothing to do with the finished sweetness of a wine.

When we harvest, we expect the pH to be 3.4 to 3.5. 

pH and acidity have more to do with the elements of fruit in a wine.  A 3.4 to 3.5 wine would be like a squeeze of lemon, which is desirable in whites like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.  A 3.5 to 3.6 wine would have a pleasant, crisp acidity, generally desirable in wines from tank-fermented Chardonnays through mid-weight reds.  A 3.6 to 3.8 pH in reds indicates a rounder mouthfeel and probable malolactic conversion, which is customary in reds anyway, but a summertime crispness to the fruit--an acidity that will help the flavors survive years of cellaring.  Wines with a pH higher than 3.8, the 3.9 to 4.3 range, have super-soft mouthfeels, and the subdued fruit flavors and gentle acidity blend seamlessly into oak and tannin flavors, but tannin does not preserve fruit flavors by itself--acidity actually balances out the tannic components, and both are needed for a wine to have balanced longevity. 

So, I guess the rule of thumb would be:  red wines with a very high pH are beautiful wines to be drunk now.  Well-crafted reds with a lower pH, 3.6 to 3.8, will not be as fulsome, but they will cellar longer, and appeal more to drinkers who like fruit in their reds.

What do you like?

(Edited because I type faster than I think.)

Good points.

There are too many well made wines with low acidity that have aged very nicely.

there are loads of examples of poorly made wines with high acidity levels that did not age well.

PH level is only a part of a very complex puzzle.

Trying to establish rules of thumb re wine is a dicey proposition.

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