The balance of wine

Balance is Quality.

The first criterion that determines the quality of a wine is the notion of balance. It can be represented in the form of a scale and will be built around two things: the hard elements and the soft elements . These elements will contribute to this sensation of texture that you have in the mouth when you drink a wine. They will vary depending on several factors such as the grape variety, the climate of the region, the vintage and the winemaking (but that is not the subject of this article). All wines are different (fortunately because this is what makes the great variety of wines today) and it is normal that this balance leans a little to one side or the other because it will determine its style ( see white wine styles and red wine styles ). We find very quality wines in each style, however if the balance tilts too much to one side, we will have an unbalanced and unpleasant wine.

So I can already hear your questions, what are these hard elements and these soft elements? Well it's very simple on the soft side we will find the alcohol and the sugar and on the hard side we will have the tannins and the acidity . The sensation of sweetness will be provided by the sugar (for so-called “sweet” sweet wines) and by the alcohol. For the hard elements, which does not mean that they are bad, we have acidity which brings freshness to a wine (it makes you salivate) and tannins which give structure and body.

The balance of a dry white wine

Dry white wines are the easiest to gauge because they are based only on two elements, acidity and alcohol . As we saw above, the balance will therefore be, in tasting jargon, between freshness and roundness.

In this kind of balance, alcohol therefore brings roundness and coats the acidity which means that we need a minimum of its two elements. A bad example would be too much acidity and little alcohol, which would make the wine too acidic on the palate and conversely a white wine with too much alcohol and not enough acidity would become too heavy on the palate. There are of course dry white wines in which one of the two elements takes up more space than the other, while maintaining a beautiful taste harmony. A white Sancerre , for example, with fine and marked acidity will be just as qualitative as a white Saint-Joseph with a beautiful roundness and rather low acidity.

The balance of a sweet white wine

Sweet white wines are also based on acidity and alcohol but integrate a third element which is sugar . Quite logically, the roundness and creaminess will be much more present in the mouth, but the balance remains just as important. What will be important in these sweet wines is to have sufficient acidity to balance the sugar and alcohol.

If the acidity is not sufficient, you will have a wine that is much too heavy, which will not be pleasant. We can compare this with a Ti-punch known for its lime, rum and cane sugar trio. If you don't add enough lemon (and therefore acidity), you will have a mixture of alcohol and sugar that is very heavy in the mouth to be pleasant. Well, it’s the same for sweet wines!

The balance of a red wine

Regarding red wines, balance is also based on three elements: acidity , alcohol and tannins . Here we have a new element, tannins, which will bring structure to red wines but also bitterness . When they are too present, there will be a feeling of astringency in the mouth, a bit like if you let your tea bag steep too long. The acidity will therefore refresh the mouth and the alcohol will give roundness in the face of this bitterness of the tannins.


A bad example that we can encounter is a wine with too much alcohol, little tannins and acidity. In this specific case, the wine will seem heavy to you, will heat your mouth and give you a burning sensation.

In the end, we can have a light wine (Beaujolais) or a balanced tannic wine (Bordeaux). These 3 elements will interact with each other to provide this balance, that is to say that there must be a sort of harmony, without one being too absent, or on the contrary too pronounced.

Thank you for reading this article and don’t hesitate to share it with others if you liked it!


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