Home News > May 2019 > ‘Oak is out, acidity is in, but why?’

As a kind of ‘somm’s eye view’ of the wine world, the Sommelier Wine Awards is a great place to go looking for what’s hot, what’s not and what the on-trade can expect to be seeing in its cellars and on its lists over the coming 12 months. Chris Losh explores the growth in high-acid wines...

Some of the stories that the competition throws up are long-established trends - the relentless rise of prices has been a theme for many years now, for instance.

Others come out of nowhere and could turn out to have the longevity of a mayfly. It will be interesting to see, for instance, whether the explosion in sparkling wine medals that we’ve seen in SWA 2019 manages to sustain itself for another year.

And somewhere in between these two trends are stories which appear to be a long-term trend, but haven’t finishing settling down yet. Stories like the growth in high-acid wines.

I’d guess that this shift started just after the millennium, pioneered particularly by Australian white wine makers.

The ‘New Roo Chardonnay style’ is something that we started to pick up on in SWA around 2012, when our tasters were surprised by tauter fruit, higher acid and more subtle oak use. This style has now become well-established, and is being refined every year.

But I’d argue that it’s part of a wider trend, tied in with the rise of lighter styles such as Pinot Grigio, rosé – and possibly Sauvignon Blanc. There’s a shift in taste that makes it obvious that consumers are looking for freshness rather than richness.

Whether consumers or the trade are driving this is a matter for debate, but it’s certainly having an impact on what’s being sent in to SWA – and what the judges find interesting.

Go back ten years and we saw very few high-acid whites such as Txakoli, Vinho Verde, or even English whites. Now these wines are entering in ever-bigger numbers, and doing pretty well.

Of course, entering is one thing, receiving medals is quite another. Which raises another question: would these low-fruit wines have picked up top awards in the numbers that they have ten years ago, when we were all programmed to think about wine rather differently? I’m not sure they would.

It’s not just winemakers, importers and consumers who have changed their attitude, it’s the on-trade too.