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Guestblogger and winemaker Scott Harvey returns to fill us in on pH in wine-making and wine-drinking.

As promised in the last blog post on pH this post will explain how pH plays a role in developing either new world wines (Parker Wines) or old world wines (food wines). Both styles have their place.  Americans consume a lot of wines without food, thus creating a need for the higher pH new world style wines.  

When you sit down to dinner and take that first bite, it tastes so good...

The second bite is good, but not as good as the first.  When you take the first bite, your mouth is craving the fats that are in the food.  On the second and third bites the fats have built up and you are no longer craving them as much.  Wine, on the other hand, is acid based.  The first sip of wine produced below 3.6pH has enough acidity to wash out those fats left from the food.  So the wine tastes great and then the next bite of food tastes like the first bite again.  If wine is produced in the new world style above 3.7pH it does not properly wash the fats out and tastes flabby with the food.  New world wine will taste much better without food, because the acid is low enough that you can keep drinking the wine without an acid build up.

How is the wine buyer to know what style they are getting?  Zinfandel is notorious for being produced at the extreme end of the new world style while some producers, like us, produce it in the old world style.  The best way to make the determination is understanding the pH.  To get grapes from the vineyard in these high pH ranges you need to let the grapes get much riper, which also produces wines with much higher alcohols.  Thus, since no one puts pH levels on their labels, the best way to determine new or old world style is by looking at the alcohol.  A subject for another blog.    

With the reserve wines we bottle we have gone so far as to put a scale on the back label to depict whether the wine is new or old world in style.  Generally the new world style wines are bottled above 3.7pH while the old world style wines are bottled below 3.6pH.  I like it if the winery publishes the pH.  It is a determining factor when I’m pushing the buy button on wine.woot.  Just remember, both styles have their place depending on how you want to enjoy the wine.

cheron98


quality posts: 123 Private Messages cheron98

Interesting... Yeah that makes sense, the whole "washing out the fat" thing. So when I have a nice fatty steak, I should be looking for a more acidic wine to go with it, to keep each bite "fresh". Good to know!

I had a good "aha" moment this past weekend in regards to acidic foods & sweet wines. Had a sweet, lower alcohol white with tomato soup. Couldn't drink the wine on its own, but the soup totally killed the syrupy sweetness of the wine and made it really outstanding.

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rpm


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I suppose it's an acquired taste, but even without food (or much of it), I prefer lower pH wines made in more traditional styles.

Wine-tasting in 8 words:
Pull lots of corks!
Remember what you taste!

PetiteSirah


quality posts: 80 Private Messages PetiteSirah
cheron98 wrote:Interesting... Yeah that makes sense, the whole "washing out the fat" thing. So when I have a nice fatty steak, I should be looking for a more acidic wine to go with it, to keep each bite "fresh". Good to know!

I had a good "aha" moment this past weekend in regards to acidic foods & sweet wines. Had a sweet, lower alcohol white with tomato soup. Couldn't drink the wine on its own, but the soup totally killed the syrupy sweetness of the wine and made it really outstanding.



Tannins are also quite important in pairing with meats (if not more so). This is why you don't see Chianti as a typical pairing for ribeye.

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SonomaBouliste


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PetiteSirah wrote:Tannins are also quite important in pairing with meats (if not more so). This is why you don't see Chianti as a typical pairing for ribeye.



Tannin and protein react with each other - why meat and cheese are more frequently paired with red wine. The "refreshing" aspect of acid really helps with anything creamy or rich, while high alcohol tends to have the opposite effect.

cheron98


quality posts: 123 Private Messages cheron98
SonomaBouliste wrote:Tannin and protein react with each other - why meat and cheese are more frequently paired with red wine. The "refreshing" aspect of acid really helps with anything creamy or rich, while high alcohol tends to have the opposite effect.



So, generally, the lower the pH (more acidic), the lower the alcohol content tends to be? Generally?

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gcdyersb


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SonomaBouliste wrote:Tannin and protein react with each other - why meat and cheese are more frequently paired with red wine. The "refreshing" aspect of acid really helps with anything creamy or rich, while high alcohol tends to have the opposite effect.



Do condensed tannins and hydrolyzable tannins bind differently with proteins? I'm curious because I tend to find that in oaky wines that presumably should be higher in hydrolyzable tannins, there's a different mouth-fell. Mostly I feel more astringency and drying on my tongue when a wine is oaky--usually I smell the vanilla first and the oak "taste" sticks to my tongue.

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SonomaBouliste


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rpm wrote:I suppose it's an acquired taste, but even without food (or much of it), I prefer lower pH wines made in more traditional styles.



Kinda like some people prefer fruit over candy, eh?

cheron98


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gcdyersb wrote:Do condensed tannins and hydrolyzable tannins bind differently with proteins? I'm curious because I tend to find that in oaky wines that presumably should be higher in hydrolyzable tannins, there's a different mouth-fell. Mostly I feel more astringency and drying on my tongue when a wine is oaky--usually I smell the vanilla first and the oak "taste" sticks to my tongue.



hydrolyzable tannins?

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bhodilee


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SonomaBouliste wrote:Kinda like some people prefer fruit over candy, eh?



My kids can't figure me out because I almost never eat candy. I'm like RPM though, I'm finding even as a standalone I prefer the "old world" style, though occasionally a new world fruit bomb is just right. Just like occasionally candy tastes good.

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tommythecat78


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While I understand that there can't be a real hard and fast rule about alcohol content determining acidity, what would you consider a good guideline as far as alcohol level and food pairing/drink alone?

Thanks!

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wombativ


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tommythecat78 wrote:While I understand that there can't be a real hard and fast rule about alcohol content determining acidity, what would you consider a good guideline as far as alcohol level and food pairing/drink alone?

Thanks!



Create a hard/fast rule and you'll miss out on a lot of great wines. There is no correlation between pH and ethanol . . .

tommythecat78


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wombativ wrote:Create a hard/fast rule and you'll miss out on a lot of great wines. There is no correlation between pH and ethanol . . .



Exactly the opposite of what I am looking for. Looking for more of a backup loose guideline such as, if alcohol % is below x then this wine may be better off to be paired with food, and vice versa.

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cheron98


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tommythecat78 wrote:Exactly the opposite of what I am looking for. Looking for more of a backup loose guideline such as, if alcohol % is below x then this wine may be better off to be paired with food, and vice versa.



I don't know that that's really possible. I've experienced wines with high alcohol that really benefited from food, as well as wines with lower alcohol that ALSO really benefited from food. And I've found wines in both spectra where food just made it blah and they needed to be drank alone. There's so much more that goes into food/wine pairing than just alcohol content.

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rpm


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SonomaBouliste wrote:Kinda like some people prefer fruit over candy, eh?


I suspect that fruit (which I also prefer) is probably the 'natural' taste and candy the 'acquired' taste.

Wine-tasting in 8 words:
Pull lots of corks!
Remember what you taste!

ddeuddeg


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rpm wrote:I suspect that fruit (which I also prefer) is probably the 'natural' taste and candy the 'acquired' taste.



I'd really like to agree with you, but as much as I like fruit, my recollection is that I "acquired" a taste for candy on the first attempt. (The same is true of Scotch whisky, which I had been led to believe was also an acquired taste.)

"Always keep a bottle of Champagne in the fridge for special occasions. Sometimes the special occasion is that you've got a bottle of Champagne in the fridge". - Hester Browne


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ScottHarveyWines


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tommythecat78 wrote:Exactly the opposite of what I am looking for. Looking for more of a backup loose guideline such as, if alcohol % is below x then this wine may be better off to be paired with food, and vice versa.



I think Peter's post summed it up well. High Tannin wines go well with meat and cheese, low pH-higher acid with creamy/rich foods and that higher alcohol tends to fight with creamy/rich foods. What we are seeing in a lot of wines that are going after the over ripe high alcohol Parker style, they will be higher pH because of the ripness but will be fermented to produce high tannin levels so that the high extracted tannins make up for what the high pH lacks. I tend to think that if the wine gets much higer than 15.2% I would just as soon have the wine with a cigar as have it with my dinner.

rpm


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SonomaBouliste wrote:Kinda like some people prefer fruit over candy, eh?



Well, candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker...

(I couldn't resist)

Wine-tasting in 8 words:
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Remember what you taste!

nyesq54


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"Just remember, both styles have their place depending on how you want to enjoy the wine."

Words to live by.

mopsie2002


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Wow, that was so helpful and informative, I never understood old/new world until now! Thanks for sharing.

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Nostrom0


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ScottHarveyWines wrote:I would just as soon have the wine with a cigar as have it with my dinner.



You like cigars too? That's it! I'm joining your wine club and starting a fan club, too

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JOATMON


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rpm wrote:Well, candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker...



..while pot is not.

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MaskedMarvel


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I'm sure this has been answered somewhere before,

Does pH change over the maturation of the bottle?

ScottHarveyWines


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Nostrom0 wrote:You like cigars too? That's it! I'm joining your wine club and starting a fan club, too



The next time your in St. Helena, give me a call and we'll enjoy a glass of wine with a cigar on our deck. My cell is 707 337-9202.

ScottHarveyWines


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MaskedMarvel wrote:I'm sure this has been answered somewhere before,

Does pH change over the maturation of the bottle?



My experience is that it does not.

woopdedoo


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Hey Scott -

I just got your recent email that talks about closures. I asked Peter this before, but am still wondering about this .. If the container in which a wine ages (i.e. The Bottle) is supposed to be non-permeable to air transfer, and the container itself imparts no additional qualities to the wine, it would seem to me that wine makers would "bottle" a certain amount of their wines in gallon sized plastic "box" type of containers, so they could periodically take samples of their offerings over long periods of time without introducing any oxygen - you could keep a library of all of your offerings over the years without having to open a bottle everytime you wanted to have a taste.

Would the wine age identically in a "box" as in a bottle? If not, why not?

andyduncan


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woopdedoo wrote:Hey Scott -

I just got your recent email that talks about closures. I asked Peter this before, but am still wondering about this .. If the container in which a wine ages (i.e. The Bottle) is supposed to be non-permeable to air transfer, and the container itself imparts no additional qualities to the wine, it would seem to me that wine makers would "bottle" a certain amount of their wines in gallon sized plastic "box" type of containers, so they could periodically take samples of their offerings over long periods of time without introducing any oxygen - you could keep a library of all of your offerings over the years without having to open a bottle everytime you wanted to have a taste.

Would the wine age identically in a "box" as in a bottle? If not, why not?



There was an interesting article on appellation america last year:

Part One

Part Two

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woopdedoo


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andyduncan wrote:There was an interesting article on appellation america last year:

Part One

Part Two



Thanks. These articles reinforce my curiosity about anerobic "bottle" aging and why it would seem to be beneficial to keep a library in box or bag wine to preserve the oxygen-free environment when taking samples.

andyduncan


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woopdedoo wrote:Thanks. These articles reinforce my curiosity about anerobic "bottle" aging and why it would seem to be beneficial to keep a library in box or bag wine to preserve the oxygen-free environment when taking samples.



I think the problem with most plastics is that they aren't totally inert, and most of them are slightly or more than slightly gas-permeable. Also, any time you pour wine out of the container, you're going to get some backwash and/or have trouble getting a good clean seal, which could bring in bacteria or more gas or other foreign stuff. Not an issue over a few weeks, but definitely a potential problem for years of aging.

A much better idea would be to package your wine is multiple smaller containers and open those over the course of years, much like my mom used to do with large batches of soup, or jam.

Something like glass bottles would be a good choice :-)

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SonomaBouliste


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andyduncan wrote:I think the problem with most plastics is that they aren't totally inert, and most of them are slightly or more than slightly gas-permeable. Also, any time you pour wine out of the container, you're going to get some backwash and/or have trouble getting a good clean seal, which could bring in bacteria or more gas or other foreign stuff. Not an issue over a few weeks, but definitely a potential problem for years of aging.

A much better idea would be to package your wine is multiple smaller containers and open those over the course of years, much like my mom used to do with large batches of soup, or jam.

Something like glass bottles would be a good choice :-)



What Andy said - the box doesn't work for long term. Even glass is not completely inert. I read the AA articles with some doubt. There was at least one false statement and some questionable extrapolations. A winemaker who should know better stated that SO2 combines with oxygen - most definitely not so. Champagne not going flat means little. At average measured cork permeability it would take 1200 years for the CO2 in a bottle of sparkling wine to dissipate, not even factoring the construction of modern champagne corks that probably further reduces permeability. Subjecting corks to high pressure for short periods of time also proves nothing. We're talking micro-permeability here, on the order of a few millionths of a gram of O2 per day.

damightyanteater


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bhodilee wrote:My kids can't figure me out because I almost never eat candy. I'm like RPM though, I'm finding even as a standalone I prefer the "old world" style, though occasionally a new world fruit bomb is just right. Just like occasionally candy tastes good.



I am also the same. But, I think its partially due to the fact that I don't eat those foods that are traditionally pair with reds (red meat). So I guess I have developed a palate that appreciates old world style wines with out the need for a food to flush my tongue.

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cheron98


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*** Momentary Thread Hijack ***

Don't forget, A Weekend with Scott Harvey! July 30 - August 3rd!

Ok folks, time to start ramping this up again. I'm finding myself more and more needing a headcount on who's truly seriously interested in this trip before I start putting deposits down all over northern Michigan So please post up if you definitely want to do this.

*** End Hijack ***

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NedDawg


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I don't know what the Anti Wine Snob's credentials are, but I found this article of hers, and it makes a lot of sense to me:
http://antiwinesnob.com/wine-articles/whats-the-difference-between-tannins-and-acidity/