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A First Course in Wine: From Grape to Glass. Copyright 2013; Race Point Publishers, NY. 224 pages. Forward by Mario Batali.

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Food and Wine's Common Ground: Acidity

With the endless possibilities of food preparations, selecting a compatible wine may seem like an easy task.  There are times, however, that certain components in either the food or the wine can hinder the perfect pairing.  By understanding the acidic properties of wine a bit more, we can overcome the challenges of pairing food and wine.

For the first few months as a grape grows on the vine the acid levels are through the roof.  It isn’t until late summer/early fall that the skins change color and the sugar levels rise.  Each winemaker has his or her own beliefs as to when it’s the right time to pick the grapes; ideally picking when the acid and sugar levels are balanced.

Unripe grapes with high acid levels

Unripe grapes with high acid levels

Acidity in a wine is the tingly sensation you feel in the back of your cheeks upon sipping.  Acidity is also what breaks down sugars, fats, proteins, or just about any other component in food.  Consider a rich, cream-based pasta sauce with nuts and vegetables.  A high acid wine, either red or white, is the perfect companion to the cream and nutty profiles of the dish.  Chemically speaking, the acidity in the wine cuts through the richness of the sauce and breaks down the protein and fat content of the nuts.  In Evan Goldstein’s  book, Perfect Pairings he states, “Acidity is the ultimate contrast to an array of dishes.  If you are seeking to “cut” a dish that is rich, salty, oily, fatty, or mildly spicy, serving the dish alongside a tart-tasting wine will be effective and refreshing.”

Grapes just before harvest

Grapes just before harvest

Acidity is a touch concept to tackle, especially when the fruit components in wine can be overwhelming.  The best way to proceed is try new wines with new recipes and see what works for you.  In a restaurant setting I often instruct servers to pair wines with food that either share certain qualities with the meal, or starkly contrast the meal.  Keep this in mind en route to your perfect pairing…

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