All it takes is one really good fall to understand the importance of balance. We were reminded of that this past week when having drinks at Hudson Bar and Books with colleagues. The night was going all too well. We had even managed to include Frangelico in the drinking equation. Everyone was enjoying themselves and the ample amounts of Champagne being poured when a slight move turned the table—both literally and figuratively. A co-worker scooted over in the banquet seat to make room for another when he lost his balance and flew into the table, knocking over at least seven (full) glasses, flipping us over on our chair, and falling on top of us. As we laid there, a Perrier-Jouet miraculously still full and in hand, we tried to process what just happened and how we came to be sprawled out on the floor of Hudson Bar and Books with all its patrons’ eyes focused in our direction. It then occurred to me: we can never come back here again. See, balance is important – particularly when you're drinking wine and especially when you're making it.
When we talk about balance in wine, what we are referring to is the overall balance of the fruit, alcohol, tannin and acidity. These elements are extremely important because together they create the structure and body of the wine. If the balance is off, say there isn’t enough fruit to balance the high alcohol, you can taste it. It might feel lean in your mouth and have a great deal of heat when you swallow. Usually there is one element that is jarring, distracting you from the overall experience. While there many factors that impact the balance of the wine – from the grapes used to wine-making techniques – getting it just right may be the greatest challenge in making wine. But when everything comes together, the result can be transcendent.
The wine that got us thinking about balance was the 1994 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon (around $50). We had opened it with our tasting group and the room got really quiet, kind of like at a table when a great meal is served. The texture was like velvet and the length of the wine went on long enough to carry us to our next sip. There were notes of pepper, blackberry and cassis. This balance was perfect. There was a nice amount of acidity that added liveliness to the wine, the tannins were soft but added an extra layer of depth, and the ample amount of fruit intensity countered the higher alcohol content. If you can get your hands on a bottle, you will not be disappointed.
Perhaps our less than graceful showing at Hudson Bar and Books was embarrassing and will leave a nice sized bruise on our left hip but sometimes you need a little shake-up to calibrate your senses. We’re just hoping next time we break less expensive stemware.