Scott Harvey with more on pH and old vs. new world wines

by Scott Harvey

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.