Wine: Balance

Wine: Balance

Wine: Balance

By Kay Pfaltz

You know you’re doing too much when you learn to brush your teeth with your left hand, not to increase brain power, but so you can dry your hair with your right hand at the same time. If February’s big chill and snow was tempered by cupid’s love, March’s tradition strives for balance between its rowdy lion and gentle lamb. Finding the perfect balance in our own lives is, for most of us, an ongoing quest, verging these days almost on virtue. Balance in wine is no different; it’s essential. We call a wine balanced when fruit, alcohol, tannins and acidity are in proportions that allow the wine to be neither too hot (alcoholic), flabby (not enough acid), mouth-puckering (due often to young or strong tannins) or sharply acidic. While balance refers to the interaction among many elements in wine, the most obvious to understand is that between sugar and acidity. Too low in sugar and a wine will taste tart; too high in sugar and it will be flabby and soft. A wine low in extract (flavor intensity) will be boring. If a red wine is high in tannins (found in skins, stems and pips and where the most antioxidant properties come from) its acidity must be low or it tastes harsh. The less tannic a wine, the more acidity it can support. And a wine can tolerate acidity better if its alcohol content is higher. Temperature also comes into play with balance. Heat emphasizes the wine’s flavors and is the reason why drinking (good) white wine at cellar temperature, or warmer, allows you to taste its fruit and complexity more easily, but also why reds tasted outdoors in summer seem heavy or cloying. Heat will appear to intensify the alcohol, which is volatile, and can spoil the palate. Likewise, chilling can hides flaws in cheap wine. Odoardi, Savuto, 2006Odoardi, Savuto, 2006 – To me this under-appreciated wine epitomizes good balance. Savuto is a D.O.C. in Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot, a rugged, poor region that is home to rustic reds and bowls of pappardelle pasta. Odoardi Savuto is a blend of weird-sounding, indigenous grapes: Gaglioppo, Greco Nero, Nerello Cappuccio, Magliocco Canino and Sangiovese. A bit of age prevents the resulting wine from tasting too angular and gives it appealing complexity. The nose brings to mind dried prunes and raisons, in part the result of how it’s made, by using the Recioto method of drying grapes, similar to Amarone. Balance and complexity all for $14. Jean-Michel Guillon Burgundy – If, in the most basic sense, a balanced wine is one in which all the components work together in harmony to provide not only an memorable nose and taste, but an overall experience, the Burgundies of Jean-Michel Guillon are the ambassadors of balance. From the Côte de Nuits in Burgundy’s north, Jean Michel’s wines are velvet in a bottle. That may be a bit simplistic since they range from Gevrey Chambertin to Chambolle Musigny, with different vintages reflecting different aspects of the burgundian terroir, but I’ve never tasted a bad one. These are what every Pinot Noir should strive for: exquisite balance and a sense of place. The Secrets of Paris, September 2014. The hidden side of Paris.  [email protected]

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