Tartaric acid is a white crystalline organic acid that occurs naturally in many plants, most notably in grapes. Its salt, potassium bitartrate, commonly known as cream of tartar, develops naturally in the process of wine making. It is commonly mixed with sodium bicarbonate and is sold as the baking powder used as a leavening agent in food preparation. The acid itself is added to foods as an antioxidant and to impart its distinctive sour taste.
Tartaric acid plays an important role chemically, lowering the pH of fermenting “must” to a level where many undesirable spoilage bacteria cannot live, and acting as a preservative after fermentation. In the mouth, tartaric acid provides some of the tartness in the wine, although citric and malic acids also play a role.
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