Wine and Walnuts

A blog about eating, drinking, cooking and reading in the not so Deep South

Wine Basics: Acidity

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

Aah, acidity. Once I understood this concept, so many other things about wine, especially food and wine pairing, made so much more sense.

Let’s break it down, simply ~

• All wines contain some level of acidity.  You’ll notice it most in tart wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Chianti, and light reds like Beaujolais.  (And others besides, but those are three examples most folks are familiar with.)

• Acidic wines are very food-friendly.

• Wines with lots of acidity will often be described as crisp, racy, tart, juicy, zesty, vibrant, etc. Acidity is what gives white wines their refreshing quality.

• Acidity adds structure, and is the primary reason that a small percentage of white wines can improve with age.

• You want the acidity in the wine to be in balance with the wine’s other attributes.  If a wine doesn’t have enough acidity, it can taste “flabby” or dull.  If it has too much, it can taste sharp or sour. 

• The level of acidity in a wine has depends on grape type, soil, and climate.  Cooler climate regions tend to produce wines with more acidity. 

Them’s the (very) basics.

But really, what’s more important is how acidity in wine affects food pairing . . .


When it comes to food and wine pairing, acidity in wine is like squeezing lemon on a piece of fish – it heightens the flavor of the food.  So you can think of acidic wines as very food-friendly. Once I learned this, I found all kinds of food and wine pairing combos to love.

When pairing acidic wines, one way to go is to try to match the acidity of the wine with the acidity of the food.  Acidic food and wine adore each other.  This is why Chianti goes so well with tomato sauces and other tomato-based dishes, and why fresh chevre tastes so good with Sauvignon Blanc.  Two really great food and wine combos to try if you haven’t already, by the way.

Or you can let opposites attract and pair acidic wines with rich, creamy dishes. This works because the acidity in the wine will cut through the richness of the dish and balance it out. 

On the other end of the spectrum, acidic wines also pair very well with light, refreshing dishes like salads.  One of my favorite food and wine pairings is Sauvignon Blanc with a tomato and mozzarella salad.  This pairing makes me very happy.

One thing you don’t want to do is pair acidic wine with sweet foods – a definite clash.  This combination can cause sweet foods to taste bitter.


Sauvignon Blanc with pan-seared mahi-mahi; mixed green salad; shellfish; tangy cheeses like goat; soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert; green veggies; tomatoes; herbal dishes, especially those with cilantro; fried calamari and garlic-based dishes.

Chianti with tomato sauces and other tomato-based dishes, especially Italian dishes like chicken cacciatore and baked ziti; cheeses like Parmesan, fontina and taleggio; grilled steak or pork; pizza; dishes with thyme and oregano.

Beaujolais with almost everything; roast chicken; French fries (yes!) and other fried foods; pizza; soft cheeses like Camembert, tangy cheeses like chevre; casual foods like take-out.


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About The Author

Kimberly Houston


2 Responses to “Wine Basics: Acidity”

  1. Kimberly, I love the food friendliness of acidic wines. Thank you for covering this topic so well.

    A lot of people at my wine tastings are put off by the in-your-face tartness of sauvignon blanc, when tried by itself. When they try this wine with food, the experience is entirely different.

    Three cheers for how yummy it is to pair acidic wines with food.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Betty!

    Good point about Sauvignon Blanc, I’ll have to remember to do something similar at my next tasting featuring Sauv Blanc. I love it all by itself, but I get why some people might find it off-putting. And it’s so great with food too, it’s definitely one of my “go-to” wines. : )

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