Is There Salt in Your Wine?
Wine can be associated with any or all of the 5 flavors: umami, salty, sweet, bitter, acidic. It is the "salty" flavor that's been on my mind lately. I've been enjoying some very high acid whites and find that the ones I like best are those I can describe as having some "salinity".
That got me wondering if wine really does have sodium in it and what it is I'm really tasting when I think I pick up some saline notes.
Does wine contain sodium?
Can your wine actually have sodium in it?! Surprisingly, yes. This varies by varietal, root stock, soil, terroir and region however a "typical" American wine (take a Merlot from Napa for example) will have approximately 5 mg of sodium per 4-oz pour (40 mg/l). Whites in general are slightly higher. But there are wines with far more sodium than that.
How does the salt get there?
As I alluded to above, there are a number of factors. Some root stock is more willing to carry sodium up to the fruit. Some soil is more saline. Some grapes are growing in regions boarding the ocean and get a big dose of ocean breezes and salinity absorbed through the leaves and roots. Some climates are chillier and produce more acidic fruit (there's a connection!). And some varietals are more "salty". There is no one answer.
Which are the saltiest wines?
"Salinity" in wine is often associated with the high-acid white wines of Spain’s Rías Baixas and Greece's Santorini. In Rías Baixas some vineyards are just a few feet away from sea. This has an influence on the minerals and salts in the soil and in the moist air. The salts are drawn into the roots and leaves of the grape vines.
Wines produced from ocean-side vineyards have been measured with as much as 400 mg/l of salts (chloride, sodium and potassium). Whereas similar wines from vineyards closer to the mainland produce wine with 40 mg/l of salt. And again, a typical American merlot might have 5 mg/glass or 40mg/l.
Interestingly enough, wines from Australia are said to be notoriously salty as well.
Is salty wine good?
Ok, I'm not really talking "salty" like a potato chip that will dry your mouth out from the salt, but something with a lovely minerality and freshness. So I say, yes, this is good! But this is one of those hugely subjective things. One woman's floor is another woman's ceiling. You know?
But consider this. Salinity increases our perception of sweetness, and reduces our perception of acid. Acidity boosts the perception of both sweetness and salinity. So if you have a very fruity high acid and high salt wine it's going to be packed with flavor and very refreshing the salinity will soften your perception of the acid and both the acid and salinity with make the fruit flavors sing! If you have a well balanced wine from one of these regions it's going to be a powerhouse of fruity flavors.
Have you ever noticed a saline quality to any wine you've tried!? I'd love to hear from you, pop a comment below!