Here’s what’s going on with my Syrah and its growing pains. According to the Crushpad winemakers, the acid is a little bit high.
Mini science lesson: Tartaric acid occurs naturally in grapes and is essential in the winemaking process. It helps maintain the wine’s color, lowers the pH of the fermenting juice to a point where bacteria cannot survive, acts as a preservative, and (in the right proportions) enhances the taste of the finished wine.
What does it mean if you have too much acid? In this case, the acid is masking all the wonderful juicy fruit flavors in the Syrah, so it tastes flat, dries out your tongue in an unpleasant way, doesn’t have the nice round, velvety mouthfeel that it should, and generally tastes kind of yucky. So sad.
Luckily, acid levels are fixable. We just have to peel back the ugly acid mask to reveal the sleeping oeno-princess within.
How exactly? The first thing we’ll try is putting the wine in the cold room for a few days. This is called cold stabilization. As it chills, some of the acid should crystalize (tartrate crystals from tartaric acid) and precipatate out of the wine. We can then separate the wine from the crystals. Wikipedia tells me that the tartrates remaining on the inside of the barrels were once a major source of industrial potassium bitartrate, a.k.a. cream of tartar. Meringues, anyone?
I’ll let you know how the cold room goes and report back when I go in for a tasting. So have no fear (I don’t), Syrah will once again be the supermodel wine that she once was. And if she’s anything like my little Pet, here…
… well, lookout world!