Last week I had the great luck to consume a wine that was truly balanced -more about this specific bottle later.
This wine brought back memories of other great wines that I have tasted and each time these wines were balanced. Wines of this character are few and far between. So what is balance in a wine?
A wine is balanced according to Jancis Robinson when the “alcoholic strength, acidity, residual sugar, tannin and fruit complement each other so that no single one of them is obtrusive on the palate.”
Quite simply, everything in the wine blends together to create a symphony of ta ste that is memorable. Unfortunately, wine buyers, especially in Thailand’s tax-constricted market, may have difficulty finding such wines locally as the shelves are filled with middle of the road wines that are not that memorable but do provide us with rather basic table wine.
Another aspect in making a balanced wine is in the vineyard. Great and balanced wines seldom come from young vines but mature vines where the leaf to fruit ration is in the correct range and with the vine’s reserve of carbohydrates.
An important part of a harmonious wine is acidity. For example, Sauternes, the great sweet wine that is virtually unequalled in the wine world, must have a good amount of acidity to enable the wine to mature 20 years and up. That high degree of acidity is also required to balance the high amount of residual sugar in the wine. The same applies for other natural sweet wines such as the Auslese, Beeranauslese and Trockenbeeranuslese wines from Germany produced from the Riesling variety.
That brings me to the lovely wine that I tasted last week, the Finca La Emperatriz Rioja 2008 Reserva. The wine was produced from 60-year-old Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache) that are the two mainstay varieties of Rioja. The vines are grown in the bush style, meaning the grapes are not put on a trellis but left to form a bush. Most grapevines today are put on a trellis.
The wine was matured two years in barrels and given 22 months of bottle age before release. The label indicates that the wine has 14 percent alcohol but the wine has such depth and character one hardly notices the alcohol-this is what I call a balanced wine as the nuances of the grapes come to the fore.
The wine’s bouquet instantly told me this was the classic Rioja I love. Dense aromas of old leather and cigar box, polished flavors with a long finish. This wine took me to an exotic Spanish place with the sounds of Manuel de Falla’s “El Amor Brujo (Love, the Magician) and Noches en los jardines de España (Nights in the Gardens of Spain).
I hope readers can take such a trip accompanied by a dinner featuring a Rioja such as this one.
[Article by David Swartzentruber]