Wine Jargon: What is pH?

Wine Jargon

With a little help, you'll be decoding the language of wine in no time.

Editor's Note: In this series, Steven Grubbs, wine director at Empire State South (Atlanta, GA) and Five & Ten (Athens, GA), seeks to break down the jargon he threw at you last night.


Gettin' low...

Lately, I've been trying really hard not to do obnoxious things, like quote a wine's pH at the table. If I do, it will be something insane, like 2.8 or 2.7 (!), or whatever. Otherwise, I'm trying to keep it to myself. You don't care about pH, do you? Or do you?

To keep it plain, the pH is a way to measure acidity. To get less plain, the measurement uses a logarithm to measure the concentration of hydrogen ions, and this indicates acidity versus alkalinity. The lower the number, the more acidic the wine feels. That's most of what you need to know.

You, from a cloudy dream: But why do the numbers matter? Why are you counting? Can't you tell when you taste it? Aren't you a professional?

Me, with reverb: Drinking is a sport, and consequently there are stats. But beyond that, sometimes other other features in the wine can hide acidity. Sweetness in, say, a German Riesling serves to balance out its throttling acidity, just as rich textures in certain styles of Vouvray can mask the sear of an extremely low pH. And so, when we hear the actual numbers, we get all pumped up, and our bowties spin, nerdily.

About the Author: Steven Grubbs is a sommelier and wine director at Empire State South (Atlanta, GA) and Five & Ten (Athens, GA). Ask him what to drink on Twitter, where he also accepts questions on tacos and manhood.