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Dear Dr. Vinny,

How do I detect acid in a wine? And what does this do for the wine? I suspect that some foods are better with high-acid wines and others aren't. However, when I taste wines, I don't know how to detect the presence of acid.

—Larry L., Hoschton, Ga.

Dear Larry,

Acid gives a wine structure, and it amplifies flavors and helps some wines age. Wines might seem flabby or cloying without acid because it helps balance sweet flavors and thick textures. It's for these reasons that wines with heightened acidity go well with food—they cut through rich flavors and heighten nuances. I think of acid as a metaphoric squirt of lemon—it's the mouthwatering tingle on your tongue. You might describe it as fresh, sharp or tangy—it's the difference between a refreshing lemonade and a thick, creamy milkshake. Acid is more noticeable in white wines like Sauvignon Blanc and dry Rieslings. In reds, look for acidity in Sangiovese-based wines like Chianti, where juicy cherry flavors pair well with food.

—Dr. Vinny

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