Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
What is the ideal "total acidity" for Cabernet Sauvignon?
—Marie, Napa, Calif.
Spoiler alert: There is no “ideal” total acidity (TA) for Cabernet Sauvignon.
But first let me explain what "total acidity" is. TA is a way to measure the concentration of acidity by volume in a wine. It’s often discussed in relation to the pH, or the measure of relative acidity versus the relative alkalinity. Winemakers will look at pH as a way to measure ripeness in relation to acidity, which can help indicate how intense the acidity will come across. The higher the pH, the lower the acidity (and riper a wine will taste) and the lower the pH, the higher acidity (and more tart a wine will taste).
Most table wines have a TA of about 0.6 to 0.7 percent. The relationship between pH and TA only tells one part of the story—there are other factors like tannins, alcohol and sweetness to measure. And while these measurements also tell you part of the story, they cannot tell you how a wine will taste, or if you’ll like it.