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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I was wondering how temperature affects the acidity of a wine. For example, if a wine is heated, does the acidity increase or decrease? In addition, how does the storage time affect the acidity? Would the acidity be different after two days?
—Vanessa R., New York
After a wine has gone through fermentation and bottling, its chemical composition remains more or less constant. You’d have to create a huge difference in the temperature to actually change its makeup—like a “put it on the stove and boil it” kind of difference. As far as aging, a couple days won’t make any difference, but aging for decades might reduce the acidity slightly, through a process called esterification, in which alcohol and acidity combine to form esters. Yay, science!
That said, one’s perception of various elements in a wine can change dramatically with things like temperature, aging and exposure to air. For example, the colder the wine is, the sharper the acidity will feel, in part because the cold also masks any sweetness the wine has, mutes the aromatics and makes the wine’s body seems less full. As a wine warms up, it can come across as sweeter and more aromatic, its acidity will be masked and the alcohol will start to stick out. You might want to check out my recommendations for serving temperatures.
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