Tag Archives: Talk-A-Vino

Ramble – Throw Down – Balance

23 Mar

A shout out to Fort Worth – a great performance that’s 37 years old.

This past weekend, Anatoli over at Talk-A-Vino posted a great piece on balance in wine. You can read it here. What it did was get me thinking about that very topic. Well, actually Anatoli challenged us to think about balance in wine – what it really means, how we view it, how we value it, and what characteristics affect our take on balance. And, then post our thoughts.

Here’s my take. For years when asked what made a great wine, I’d almost always include “Balance”. It was a bit contrived, running with the herd, and disingenuous. I appreciate ‘balanced’ wines but there are times that I (and I realize many wine drinkers) love wines that are a bit skewed in one direction or another. So what does that say about balance?

The best way that I can describe my concept of balance is by referring to my second love – music. Where balance seems to oddly fit is rock music. If you’ve read Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life, you’ll have read a treatise on rock music. In particular, the rock guitar. Keith believed that the guitar wasn’t to be the primary sound of rock music. It was about the band as a whole, a wall of sound (apologies to Phil Specter) – limited guitar solos, no drum solos; just the band and the lyric. When I read that, I thought he was joking – it’s The Rolling Friggin’ Stones – there are guitar riffs and the musical thread is led by the guitar usually. But he’s right, primarily the sound, the experience of The Stones is that of a band, blending together their individual instruments to make a sound, a great and wonderful rock and roll sound. Love that balance! I get The Stones.

Now, how does that explain my love for Joe Bonamassa? Nothing classically balanced there just guitar, guitar and more screaming guitar. Or Bruce Hornsby – prodigious piano. Um.

Do I have to rethink this music parallel? I don’t think so. I think that actually reinforces the analogy. It just means we have to redefine balance – as a wine experience specific. Balance is relative – it’s never absolute or, more importantly, a substitute for equal.

balanceStay with me here. Different varietals, different regions, and different winemakers have calling cards. Some are accepted as the ‘truth’ of the grape or that particular region. And wine drinkers allow many, many takes on that card. But, they expect that calling card shows up. So, I guess what I’m saying is that some wines are in balance when they aren’t…..in balance, that is. They are the Joe Bonamassa’s – loud veins of acidity and crisp saltiness, say in a white wine like Sancerre. Anything but objectively ‘balanced’. You wouldn’t want to balance away the acidity. You would want every other note to fill out and support the crisp ambition of the wine. If it was objectively in balance, it would taste shitty. And, most importantly, it wouldn’t be Sancerre. When it’s done right, I get Sancerre.

Another example could be California Cabernet – known as big and fruit forward in some quarters. Not purely in balance. But, what needs to happen to take those big Cabs to ‘great’ is a cast that supports the notion of big and fruity. That means rhythm guitarist (tannin) and drummer (acidity) supporting the superb vocals (heft and alcohol) and lead guitar work (fruit) of the Cabernet.

Oh we’ve all had wines where we opine about the balance – an aged Bordeaux, say tasting like The Rolling Stones or Steely Dan – every note supporting the whole, every sniff filled with Bordeaux, every swallow followed by Bordeaux and a little Mick Jagger on the finish. I guess what I‘m saying is that balance is different in every wine. It’s really the wine being genuine, true and then having every other component recognizing and supporting that truth. That’s proper balance. Balance out of balance but just the same – right?

Confused? I might still be too. I’ll keep working on it. Life long learning, I say (tongue in cheek). But, I did respond to the challenge. And quickly too. Thank Anatoli for that.




#MMMC14 – Tradition

22 Dec

wine-stain1-3There’s a self-abusive yet strangely entertaining monthly event in wine writing circles called the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. Last month the theme for #MWWC13 was “Serendipity” as chosen by the previous month’s winner, Anatoli of Talk-a-Vino. I had the good fortune to secure (read: buy) enough votes to win this prestigious challenge. Hey, no chortling, I really did. It meant that I used the prize money to splurge on a new font, a bottle of 2010 DRC Richebourg, and a pair of wild dress socks. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I have to choose this month’s theme.

The theme for #MWWC14 is …………drum roll (well, you probably read it in the title)………Tradizione, Tradition, 傳統 ,ਪਰੰਪਰਾ ,Tradició

From Mr. Mirriam-Webster: tradition (noun)

  • a way of thinking, behaving, or doing something that has been used by the people of a particular group, family, society, etc. for a long time
  • the stories, beliefs, etc., that have been part of the culture of a group of people for a long time.

Have at it. The Drunken Cyclist and I will figure out the schedule and let you know via the MWWC blog. Until then enjoy your holiday………..umm…….. traditions! Beware, there will be nagging and harassing involved for the heel draggers and blocked writers out there. About the prize money? There really isn’t any. And the DRC purchase that I mentioned above? That was a lie. Although I’d like to make buying DRC a tradition.

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