Balance in a Wine – Four Key Factors

Drinking wine must be a pleasant experience – otherwise why do it? The simple judgment is “does it taste good”? Different grapes produce different fruit tastes – so that’s the primary taste to look for. But then you need to look for the other four key factors that produce a pleasant and harmonious wine with “balance”. Its all about balance!

Sweetness/Residual Sugar:  If a wine tastes sweet & coats the tongue and feels viscous and sensual there may be some residual sugar lurking.  Wines with high residual sugar such as Sauternes or Liquor Muscat match up particularly well with desserts, Foie Gras & some cheeses  – ‘dessert wines’ are some of wine’s great hidden treasures.

Acidity: Acidity is sensed first on the side of the tongue – without it wines become flabby and lack charm. A good way to gauge the acidity is after you swallowed the wine hold your mouth open to encourage extra air. If your mouth begins to salivate, this is the acidity. Wines too high in acidity become austere and tough – think ‘wine vinegar’. Acidity is necessary, as long as it is balanced with the other components.

Tannins: Tannins are mostly found in red wines (but can be found in some whites depending on style). Derived predominantly from the skin and seeds of the grape, tannins can also come as a result of oak aging. A wine with high tannins will grip and coat the gums and the middle of the tongue, giving a drying sense of bitterness and astringency. Tannins help enhance the texture of the wine, and are one of the components of ‘balance’. A good way to familiarize yourself with tannins is the taste cold tea.

Different varieties of grapes exhibit different levels of tannins. Nebbiolo & Cabernet Sauvignon have inherently high tannins, whereas Pinot Noir and Ruché from Italy (pron. Roo-Kay) have inherently lower and lovely soft tannins. Wines that are produced for consumption when young are designed to have softer, rounder tannins to give a softer ‘mouthfeel’. Wines produced for longer ageing with pronounced tannins such as those from Bordeaux need bottle age to come into balance

Alcohol: The final piece of the jigsaw is the alcohol. Wines too high in alcohol taste ‘hot’, – if you taste a bit of heat at the back of your palate (think of brandy after taste), then the alcohol is probably out of balance with the other components. The alcohol can be high but if it blends seamlessly with the sweetness, acidity and tannins it completes the balance jigsaw. But high alcohol wines where the alcohol is prominent are tough to drink in Singapore’s tropical temperatures – beware!

Look at the parts of the wine as a whole and try to match it to the occasion. Its not an exact science and there is no right answer – but its not hard to match up to the food you are serving. e.g. grilled salmon matches well with Pinot Noir but not a rich Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Chianti Ups The Ante!!

Starting with the 2010 vintage, the Chianti region has introduced an additional quality designation – ‘Gran Selezione’.

Gran Selezione’ is a quality designation that sits above the existing Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva designations. Gran Selezione must be made exclusively from a winery’s own grapes grown in its finest vineyards according to strict regulations that make it a truly premium wine & a new point of reference for Chianti. It can only be sold only after a minimum 30-month maturation & an obligatory period of bottle ageing. Gran Seleziones have great structure that, thanks to grape selection and longer bottle ageing, display superior balance & harmony, enhanced depth of flavor & aromatic complexity.

Introduction of this new quality level is yet another of the dramatic changes in the regulations governing production of Chianti. Since 1996 the blend for chianti and Chianti Classico has been 75–100% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo and up to 20% of any other approved red grape variety such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah.

In 2006, the use of white grape varieties such as Malvasia & Trebbiano were prohibited. This resulted in Chianti’s suddenly exhibiting more fleshy fruit structure. Other rules require Chianti to have a minimum alcohol level of at least 12% and a minimum of 7 months aging in oak. Riserva’s must be aged at least 24 months. The harvest yields for Chianti’s are restricted to ensure that the wines exhibit vibrant fruit structure & are not diluted by high yield over production .

It is now very evident that modern Chiantis benefit significantly with the hand over  to the better educated and trained younger generation who no longer stick to the traditional winemaking methods “just like Mum and Dad did”. 

So for all the reasons stated above, the Chianti’s of today are dramatically better than ever. Gran Selezione sits up at the top – and they great! Watch out for the arrival  in Singapore of our ‘Castello di Meleto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2010’

There are no (wine) secrets on the Internet

So here you are, just back from your vacation in (fill in the blank) and you had that splendid wine in the restaurant with your beloved and you vowed to “find this wine at home”. How do I find that ‘special’ wine?

So you go to the web and start to Google it – not easy.

Try winesearcher.com

This site, developed by the Kiwi’s, has an astonishing ability to identify just where any given wine is available – in any specific country or worldwide and what price!

So if you are searching for that ‘special wine’ that invokes some great memories then Winesearcher is the place to start.

A few metrics.  For Singapore alone, Winesearcher accesses over 300 (yes – 300!!) on-line Singapore wine lists. If it’s not showing on Winesearcher then it’s almost certainly not available in Singapore. But if you search on a worldwide basis then you likely find it somewhere – so make note of that for your next business trip to Mongolia if it shows as available there…..

And just to further boggle the mind – Winesearcher lists over 13,000 wine lists in the USA. Good luck with that.

Winesearcher is also very educational in that it shows the great disparity in wine prices in any given country. One good example of a widely available decent quality and  popular wine in Singapore: Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz. 

Wine Searcher shows the prices for the same wine range from $79  to $128 per bottle – for the same wine!!

For Benchmark Wines, using Winesearcher will demonstrate that we really do offer premium quality wines at value prices.

Really. Try it.

Wine Snobs Are Right: Glass Shape Does Affect Flavor

Scientists show glass geometry controls where and how vapor rises from wine, influencing taste.

Seeing is smelling for a camera system developed by scientists in Japan that images ethanol vapour escaping from a wine glass. And, perhaps most importantly, no wine is wasted in the process.

Kohji Mitsubayashi, at the Tokyo Medical and Dental University, and colleagues impregnated a mesh with the enzyme alcohol oxidase, which converts low molecular weight alcohols and oxygen into aldehydes and hydrogen peroxide. Horseradish peroxide and luminol were also immobilised on the mesh and together initiate a colour change in response to hydrogen peroxide. When this mesh is placed on top of a wine glass, colour images from a camera watching over the mesh on top of a glass of wine can be interpreted  to map the concentration distribution of ethanol leaving the glass.

Different glass shapes and temperatures can bring out completely different bouquets and finishes from the same wine. So Mitsubayashi’s team analysed different wines, in different glasses – including different shaped wine glasses, a martini glass and a straight glass – at different temperatures.

At 13°C, the alcohol concentration in the centre of the wine glass was lower than that around the rim. Wine served at a higher temperature, or from the martini or straight glass, did not exhibit a ring-shaped vapour pattern. ‘This ring phenomenon allows us to enjoy the wine aroma without interference of gaseous ethanol. Accordingly, wine glass shape has a very sophisticated functional design for tasting and enjoying wine,’ explains Mitsubayashi.

Wine scientist Régis Gougeon, from the University of Burgundy, France, says the work is really interesting when considering its experimental setup, which allows for a rather straightforward and inexpensive detection of ethanol. ‘Bearing in mind the flavour enhancer properties of ethanol, this work provides an unprecedented image of the claimed impact of glass geometry on the overall complex wine flavour perception, thus validating the search for optimum adequation between a glass and a wine.’

In the future the system could help indicate the best wine glass and precise temperature to serve a certain wine.

This article was published in Scientific American and was written by Jennifer Newton and ChemistryWorld. Link to the article: HERE