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Dear Dr. Vinny,

The acidity in wine is primarily due to what compound?

—Ray H., Napa, Calif.

Dear Ray,

The principal acids in wine are tartaric and malic acids and their derivatives. There are other acids that are found on grapes that might be consumed by bacteria during fermentation, or acids that are a byproduct of fermentation, such as succinic acid, gallic acid, cataric acid or citric acid. These acids are all nonvolatile, which means they do not evaporate or boil off. But you may have heard of volatile acidity, or acetic acid, which is the main volatile acid found in wine. Normally, there is a small amount of acetic acid in wine, which contributes positive attributes, but at higher levels it shows its vinegary side.

—Dr. Vinny

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