Balance in Wine
by Daniel (Wine Specialist)
How ripe is your banana? When we talk about wine we often talk about balance. What is balance in wine? Well, fruit, sugar, acid and tannin-in balance-make up some pretty tasty wines. But again, what does that mean? Does that mean that each component makes up 25% of the wine?
If all wines were in the same “balance” we would have one “best” wine for every varietal. All stores and wine lists would have the same wines.
Balance: Champagne & German wines
Balance is a bizarre catchall. And it intimidates taste. Thierry Theise, the iconic importer of Champagne and German wines is bewildered by how sugar works itself into wine. He is first to comment on how many grams of sugar are in Champagnes he represents. Why? Because some taste bone dry and they have 6-8 grams per liter, others have 4 grams and are far more discernibly sweet. This has much to do with choices the producer makes and the beautiful magic of wine.
Both of these are champagnes but one is extra Brut (bone dry) and all chard. The other is brut and mostly Pinot meunièr. Totally different!
Out of balance?
Now let’s think about wines that we consider tart and bitter. Tart is acid and bitter might be tannin. If all wines were in the same “balance” we would have one “best” wine for every varietal. All stores and wine lists would have the same wines. There would be no consideration for lift, concentration, complexity, terroir, vintage or energy.
A confident argument could be made regarding natural wines in that wine writers searched for a word to describe things that were technically out of balance. The tannins might be too much, the acid too volatile, the fruit too ripe or unctuous or the wine simply too unpredictable. Yet, the wine was compelling. And so, against all training, these writers wrote about taste. Or about production. Some story to relay the fact that the wine was fascinating even as it broke the rules.
Why do you add salt and pepper to your steak?
Then, outside of natural wines, can’t this argument still be true? Paul Draper of RIDGE once replied when asked about why he adds 1% of Mataro or 9% of Petite Sirah to his Zinfandel, “Why do you add salt and pepper to your steak?”
What does a little bit of another varietal do to a wine? These two selections from RIDGE demonstrate the idea of "salt & pepper".
A winemaker's style...
Each winemaker has a style. Just like each writer or filmmaker. Chad Stock, formerly of Craft Minimus and Omero, “Does not like fruit in my wines.” Nate Ready, Master Sommelier and winemaker at Hiyu, “Hates obvious wines.”
Both believe their wine live in a state of balance.
In all other arts we forgive what we don’t like as something else, but for some reason with wine we chase this idea of taste. Balance is a real thing but it is different in each wine. It can’t be quantified.
Consider these two wines of the same grape. Fossil point is juicy and forward while the burgundy is lighter with higher acid and more tannin.
These wines are also from the same grape. The Sauv Blanc from Italy is herbal and tropical. From Marlborough expect grapefruit and green notes leaning on fresh cut grass. Though st Clair is delicate and restrained.
So how do you like your banana?
Maybe you don’t like bananas, maybe you like it just after green, bright yellow, or flecked with brown spots. Each banana has differing levels of sugar, fruit, acid and tannin. Whichever one you like is in balance to you. No expert can tell you that you are not allowed to like it.
Shop South Lyndale Liquors
Whatever your preference, we can help you find balance. Just stop by and ask for some help in the wine section - we love to learn about your tates in wine.
Surfing the web? You can find us online to.