Tag Archives: acidity

Private Vintners Beyers Truter Bordeaux Blend Cabernet Merlot 2000

The Headlines: //

The nose is gargantuan. Like the nasal love child of Andre-the-Giant & Bette Midler. Pungent dried violets, raisins, oak, & cellar must.
On the palate, marginally overbearing port notes, though the acidity has lasted surprisingly well. As for tannins…well, what tannins, right? Soft as silk.
While the wine itself may be a touch past its best, Beyers Truter, when he is “a touch past his best” is still twice the winemaker of many a mortal. And his wines follow suit. If you have some cellared, drink them now.

Quality: 15/20 (purely due to over-aging)//
Price: Unknown //
Value: N/A //
Ponce factor: High//
Occasion: Dinner with your Grandpaps//
Key words: aging, tannins, acidity, Beyers Truter//
Vivino rating //

To fill those awkward silences…

T.A.R.A – the four secret ingredients to wines that age well

Because there is nothing like an ironic acronym to help one remember important details, I’ve developed what I like to call the TARA technique to assessing a wine’s aging potential. It involves the study of the following four elements:
Residual Sugar.

(If the irony of TARA being used as an acronym to unlock the secrets of graceful aging is lost on you, download the season of Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars).

In the matter of Science vs. Booze…

But why do we need an acronym? Can’t we just check the wine’s “Best Before” date? Alas, no. Because, despite the fact that wine has been drunk for thousands of years by hundreds of very clever, curious, well-funded and highly-motivated individuals, no one has discovered a sure-fire way to predict exactly how long a wine will take to reach its peak. Or reduce itself to vinegar.

“If wine was a poor inner-city neighbourhood, oxygen molecules would be juvenile delinquents looking to break stuff…”

Perhaps part of the reason is because, while it might be possible to punch variables into a complex algebraic equation and decipher a best-before date, it’s more enjoyable to punch a hole in a cork and decipher the location of your nearest glass. So no one really bothers.

Which brings us back to T.A.R.A.

By examining the prevalence of tannins, acidity, residual sugar, and alcohol in a wine, we can at least make snappy-but-educated guesses as to how long a wine may continue to improve…or at least survive. (This info is almost always available under “technical specs” on the winemaker or estate website).

If wine was a poor inner-city neighbourhood, oxygen molecules would be juvenile delinquents looking to break stuff, and tannins would be those selfless social workers, who keep them out of mischief by teaching them to knit, or play badminton.

Tannins form part of a group of compounds called polyphenols that bond to a whole bunch of other chemicals in weird and wonderful ways. One of the chemicals they like to bond to is oxygen. These delinquent oxygen molecules would otherwise set about wreaking havoc with certain elements in the wine, but INSTEAD, the oxygen hangs out with these phenolic compounds and can, given the right opportunities and a good education, actually become healthy citizens, who contribute to society.

While tannins may busy themselves with both each other, and youthful, anarchic oxygen molecules, acidity’s trump card is its ability to make life awfully unpleasant for any bacteria that may cause wine to spoil prematurely.

If tannins are social workers, Acidity is Simon Cowell on X-Factor destroying the self-esteem of young hopeful bacteria everywhere. It does this by shifting the pH of the solution down the scale to a point where bacteria cannot survive.
“In general, a wine should have a pH of somewhere between 3 and 4 to be stable and not allow bacteria to grow and thrive,” Max Meindl, all-round organic chemistry biscuit, and superbly knowledgeable founder of Max on Wine.

If bacteria are high schoolers on prom night, sugar is the semi-palsied history teacher monitoring the distance between adolescent bodies on the dance floor. “Always leave room for the Holy Ghost”, says Professor Sugar, totally cutting the grass of every bacterium looking to get a legover before Jocund Day can stand tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.
There are various mechanisms by which sugar creates highly unromantic settings for would-be bonking bacteria (they don’t actually bonk), but the only mechanism I’d suggest further reading on at present is that of water activity.
If you want to learn more about how sugar reduces water activity, and therefore stops bacteria from having a right old time, this is as good a link as any to start you off. And here is piece from admirably conscientious Royal Coffee on role of WA in green coffee beans. In case you were looking to branch out.

While the aim of this piece has been to avoid getting technical, I just think it’s cool the way that alcohol deals with bacteria. Alcohol acts like the blob from the 80s horror film “The Blob”. It dissolves lipids in a bacteria’s outer membranes, and then, when the poor little critter starts to bleed out like a doomed high school cheerleader in the back of jalopy, the alcohol rushes into the cell and starts denaturing proteins. Meditate on that one when you’re next hungover, and you’ll realise, “heck, I got off pretty darn lightly with nausea and a headache!”




Raka Malbec 2013

TLDR: Do it for the education. Unless you don’t care. In which case, do it for the acidity. //
Quality: 15/20 //
Price: R130.00 (as of Sept 2016) //
Value:  2/5 //
Ponce factor: Moderate //
Occasion: A companion to Thursday’s Ostrich goulash//
Key words:  Cool climate, Acidity //

Vivino rating //

Tasting notes:

If one is expecting an inky purple, velvety Argentine-style Malbec, then you’ll be sorely disappointed, but if you’re prepared for a lighter, dryer, herbs & berries fest, then this guy won’t let you down.
Colour is a clear med intensity cherry-red, providing an apt visual cue for what’s to follow:
Tart red cherries with intense-but-clean acidity, holding glorious length&joined on the caboose by some slightly peppery rocket leaf herbal notes & oak spice.
As Jancis would say, “Average but distinguished”.

To fill those awkward silences…

TL;DR Cool climate wines retain more acidity while developing less sugar. Warm climate wines develop rapidly, which consumes acidity, and gives rise to lots of sugar (and also a high potential for alcohol).
Woo-hoo girls always drink warm climate wines.

Goldilocks hits the sauce

Remember that impertinent blonde forest-dwelling vandal-nymph who kept breaking-&-entering to find chairs, porridge & beds that fit her expectations, just so? The one who refused to tolerate too high, too low, too hot, too cold, too hard, or too soft? Well, it turns out that any decent winemaker has a bit of a Goldilocks inside them, waiting to bust out and make some truly bitching wine.
You see, come harvest time, every winemaker needs to decide when to pick the grapes that (s)he will use in their wine. Like with any fruit, pick it too early and it tastes highly acidic, green, astringent, and stalky. Pick it too late, and it tastes predominantly sweet – overly so – in fact, and it can present as nigh on fermented (not in the “yay-verily” sense of the word). So to pick it “just so” is essential if you value both sweetness and acidity. When a winemaker gets this right, the end result is a balanced wine that presents as neither acidic, nor sweet, but is usually ina state of alchemic-mystical-awesome that makes you want to keep drinking until you pass out. Or so I have heard from friends of mine.

In the plant world “fast metabolism” is bad…

When you’re a human trying not to be an orca, boosting your metabolism is the name of the game.

“Fast is good”, said the annoyingly trim betty, with buns of steel.

But when you’re a plant, the opposite is true. If you’re a grape trying to become an epically complex, balanced wine of renown, you want your metabolism to be as slow as possible.

But why?

Well mostly to allow the slow development of sugars, with minimal decline in organic acids (acids get used up during plant respiration).

But why?
Well, because…
1. a fast metabolism needs lots of food (think teenage waterpolo jock).
2. The need for food in a plant triggers rapid cell respiration, and the production of sugars to feed aforementioned waterpolo plant jock (depending on which analogy stuck with you most).
3. Rapid cell respiration consumes organic acids, leaving nothing left to balance all those newly produced sugars…
4. It also causes rapid fruit growth, diluting all the goodness that may be left, while also failing to leave time for other amazing chemicals to develop before all the organic acid is consumed like Cornish pasties on a Friday.

(If you want more detail, “get thee to a university”).

How does this help me to sound more poncey at dinner parties?

Well, if you remember all those hours ago when we were talking about Raka’s brightly acidic red fruit Malbec that was in no way a velvety, sweet, dense, black fruit Argentine-type Malbec? Well, the reason behind it all comes down to a glorious union between the awful botany and organic chemistry that we just dragged you through…

Cool cliamte = acidic & dry in style ; Warm climate = sweet, full & fleshy in style

Botrivier happens to have at its disposal a rather cool Atlantic-fed lagoon that brings cool breezes in over the land, reducing temperatures in the months prior to harvest.

Cool temperature slow down a grape’s metabolism, which means the ripening process takes longer, acidity is preserved, and sweetness levels are reduced.

Put yourself to the test:

Why not put your newfound organic acidity theory to the test:
1. Pick a grape variety.
2. Pick a vintage.
3. Buy two wines – one from a cooler region (Elgin, Hemel-en-aarde, Botrivier, Constantia) and one from a warmer region (Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Swartland, Darling), decant both, and see if you can tell which is why purely by focussing on sweetness and acidity