Ask Wine Wizard

How can I fix a wine with high pH and low TA?


Gary M. Smith • Santa Rosa, California asks,

I have a batch of 2006 Chardonnay that has completed primary and secondary fermentation. It tasted flabby so I had it tested for pH and TA. The TA was low at 0.444 g/100mL and the pH was high at 3.66. I bench tested two 100 mL samples. The first sample I tested with 1 gram of tartaric acid and the second with 2 grams thinking that I needed to reduce the pH to 3.4 to be safe. Both of the samples were too tart for my taste and others that sampled. For wine stability should I add the 2g/100mL and then wait (how long?) to see if the tartness will dissipate, and if it doesn’t, reduce the acid with potassium carbonate?

Bravo for you for doing bench trials! If you’ve read my columns over the years you know that doing bench trials, that is, testing a wine treatment on a small scale (“on the lab bench”) before performing it on your entire lot, is one of my most oft-repeated mantras. You also followed another of my key winemaking axioms — always let your taste buds be your guide. Yet another nugget of winemaking wisdom I often pass on to readers is to go slowly, do things in stages, and be conservative when making additions to wines that will dramatically change them. Adding acid, as it seems like you’ve found, is one of those things that will change many aspects of a wine, including the taste balance, perceived tartness, color, pH and microbial stability. Speaking of which, I’m glad that you’re aware that a high pH wine is more susceptible to microbial spoilage and that, especially for white wines, a good amount of acid can help a wine age gracefully. Just a little bit can go a long way, however. I would
Response by Alison Crowe.