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Hearing a Wine's Acidity
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Hearing a Wine's Acidity

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

It was in the high 80s today up in Carlton, Oregon, not too far from Portland. That's close to the average temperature for this time of the year and that's good news for wine lovers. Carlton is home to a number of wine makers, among them Cuneo Cellars, and it is a sound from Cuneo Cellars that we present now as part of our collection of SoundClips from around the country.

Mr. PATRICK TAYLOR (Cuneo Cellars): My name is Patrick Taylor in Carlton, Oregon. I'm standing in my laboratory here at Cuneo Cellars next to what is called the cash still. The cash still is a piece of equipment that we use to monitor changes in volatile acidity in the wines.

The sound that you're going to hear is the sound of the vapors that are collecting in the gas tube and in the condenser. It's the sound of these being drawn back into the inner chamber as the inner chamber is being evacuated of its sample. So you hear this sucking, gurgling noise.

(Soundbite of cash still)

Volatile acids in wines include acetic acid and, to a lesser extent, butyric acid, formic acid and proprionic acid. Volatile acids are considered volatile because they can be detected aromatically or organoleptically, as well as they can be steam distilled, which is what we're doing in the cash still. And in he process of steam distillation, you're separating the volatile acids from the fixed acids, such as tartaric acid or malic acid.

(Soundbite of cash still)

Volatile acidity can be considered objectionable in wines at certain levels. Monitoring any changes in the volatile acidity is important and it can indicate either the onset of spoilage or improper storage.

(Soundbite of cash still)

NORRIS: If you want to tell us about a sound that figures in your life or your lifestyle, something you've heard that's got you thinking, call us at 202-408-9576. Our SoundClip collection can be found at NPR.org.

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