Be in pursuit of balance
There is an essential component that underlies a harmonious taste sensation. It’s called balance. In pursuit of balance – what is it?
Everyone understands this at the level of common sense – “everything is smooth, nothing sticks out.” In other words, when you drink, alcohol does not burn your palate, tannins do not tear your throat, your cheekbones do not sore, and your teeth do not stick together from sweetness. All components add up to one complex sensation called “taste.” But what do you need to balance?
In drinking, ethanol is present as a mixture with water, and from a chemical point of view, it is not a solution. When the proportions of alcohol and water are close (60/40 or 50/50), they form a mixture where it is not yet clear what is dissolved in what. Therefore, we drink strong drinks without any problems, even neutral in taste (vodka or white rum).
But try to dilute vodka three times (to a strength of 13%, about the same as wine). You will end up with a nasty liquid that smells much stronger than ethanol than any strong one (because the bonds of water and alcohol molecules are weaker) and disgustingly watery. To balance such a drink, you need all the other sensations and flavors.
Sweetness and “fruitiness”
First, it is clear that this is a specific taste, but the second is, instead, expectations of taste, which, based on previous experience, the memory throws up for smells. Just remember how the appetite is played out when the supermarket suddenly smells of fresh baked goods.
So, these pleasant sensations can hide volatile ethanol. However, they alone are not enough. Imagine mixing a bottle of vodka with a can of grandma’s jam. The aroma of peaches or blueberry jam will be “sweet.” yes, you can drink. No, this is not the most pleasant thing to drink.
Bitterness and acid
Acid and bitterness have a more sophisticated name – “structure.” While these flavors are annoying in themselves, they form the backbone of complex drinks, determining the overall strength of the mouthfeel. Acids are naturally present in the flesh of grapes, while tannins and phenolic aromatics in white varieties provide bitterness.
The structural components must be in pursuit of balance with sweetness and fruitiness. If the balance is disturbed towards the former, the taste will be sharp and unpleasant. Towards the latter, we will get a compote with vodka.
Sometimes the “structure” and “fruitiness” are not enough to hide the alcohol. Then cold comes to the rescue – in cocktails in the form of ice and wines – as the recommended serving temperature. Cold reduces the volatility of alcohol. If the flavor and aroma are intense, strong refrigeration is not necessary.
Dry, semi-dry, and semi-sweet white wines are served at temperatures between 46 – 53 F (8 – 12 C). The optimum temperature for sweet wines is in the 50 – 60 F (10 – 16 C) range. The lowest serving temperature for sparkling wines is 42 – 53 F (6 – 12 C) and for fortified wines is 42 – 48 F (6 – 9 C).
How to find a balance in practice?
In any cocktail, several components are mixed, and in general, they are called “strong,” “weak,” “sweet,” and “sour/bitter.” Take the famous Mojito: rum, soda, sugar/mint, and lime. Soda serves as a solvent for rum (bringing alcohol to a low strength), sugar, and mint, balancing lime’s acidity. Another component, ice, serves as an additional solvent and lowers the temperature.
In other types of cocktails, bitters can play a structural function. Vermouths provide both sweetness and bitterness.
But what about in pursuit of balance in wine?
All ingredients are found in the grape berry.
The peel provides “fruitiness” (due to aromatic substances) and tannins. The berry pulp contains water, sugars, and acids and can adjust its ratio when harvested (the earlier it is harvested, the less sugar and more acid). The alcohol, which is formed during the fermentation of sugar, actively converts one aromatic molecule into another, altering the “fruitiness.”
Harmony of taste in wine
The harmony of wine is somewhat comparable to the drawing of the “Vitruvian Man” by Leonardo da Vinci. Remember, if the figure is inscribed in a circle, there will be four points. If in a square, then there will be three on its sides. In red and sweet wines, four components will be balanced (alcohol-acid-tannins / sugar-aromatics), in white and pink wines – three (alcohol-acid-aromatics).
Wine – In pursuit of balance
The severity of one of the components inevitably leads to balancing (giving more intensity) to the others. Valpolicella from Veneto is a simple red wine with alcohol up to 12%, balanced by medium “fruitiness” and light structure with good acidity and low tannins. And Amarone, which is produced in the same zone, must have a pronounced structure, already due to ripe tannins, bright “fruitiness,” and sometimes even a little residual sugar to balance the alcohol at the level of 15-16%.
In pursuit of balance, most sparkling wines have a noticeable amount of residual sugar since their “fruitiness” is low, and a high level of acidity ensures their bright structure. And in cancers, for example, mature aromatics play a balancing role.
The winemaker has various tools to balance these ingredients, producing a wine that will delight the consumer, but there are also many inaccuracies or mistakes. Your principal expert tool is your own taste. A well-made wine should be pleasant to drink.