Posted on March 01 2016
There is a lot of terminology that flies around when discussing wine - bouquet, aroma, nose, palette, tannin, acid, freshness, fruit, legs, dry, rich, sweet, off-dry... etc etc etc.
A lot of these are self-explanatory, but some of them require a little more discussion.
Today, let's talk about balance.
What is a balanced wine?
A balanced wine can stand on an exercise ball, on one leg whilst closing its eyes and rubbing its belly. Oh, no, wait a second. That's not it!
A balanced wine is one in which a single element does not dominate all of the others. And those elements are fruit, tannin, sweetness, alcohol and acidity.
Detecting these different sensations is the key to knowing if they are in balance or not. So, here goes: how do you detect these thing?
Fruit: this is about fruity aromatics on the nose and a taste of fruit of some sort on the palette. Generally to be in balance, you don't want it to be a fruit-bomb!
Tannin: You feel tannin as a numbing or drying sensation on the front of your gums. Fine, ripe or soft tannins can be a great pleasure, whereas rough, course, overly-drying or unripe tannins can be bitter and unpleasant. However, they can be a sign that the wine will age well. Over time the tannins will reduce in potency.
Sweetness: Sweetness is detected on the front of your tongue. A dry wine does not feel like has much or any sugar on the front of the tongue. Dryness can be balanced by fruitiness and acidity.
Alcohol: Alcohol is felt as a warm sensation on the back of the throat. You don't want to feel like a fire-breathing dragon when you are enjoying a glass of wine. Alcohol can be balanced by fruit and acid, which will add a fresher flavour.
Acidity: Acidity causes a mouth-watering sensation. Wines with very high acidity can be a little too tense, but with just the right amount it makes you want to keep taking another sip!
So, what is a balanced wine then?
It is one which has fruit (or if it has been aged, then more complex flavours eg. leather, nuts, animal, vegetal or mineral) but is not like drinking a juice drink. It has enough tannin to be grippy and feel structured, dry enough so that it goes well with food or doesn't feel like a desert wine. You should not feel the alcohol burning your throat and the acidity should stop it feeling flabby.
After all, wine should be delicious and refreshing!
Now, go and enjoy a glass and see if it is balanced or not.