This is part of a series called Wine Words, a glossary in the works that breaks down the barrier between those in the wine know and those who have no idea what the hell everyone's talking about. A new word posts once a week, covering everything from a grape name or region, to a winemaking or tasting term.
Balance (n.) Tasting Terms
To say that balance is a tasting term is correct, but it doesn't tell the whole story. In the vineyard, conscientious viticulturists strive for vine balance as well. Ultimately, what we look for when we taste wines is not whether or not we like it, but whether or not it is structurally balanced, and as the philosophy goes, great wine is made in the vineyard. You can make bad wine with good grapes, but you can't make good wine with bad grapes. And so balance in the wine is built upon balance in the vineyard. But since most of us are far removed from the vineyard life, it's easier to understand the finished product in our glass.
There are five basic components in every wine, and the sum of these components and how well they play together determines the overall balance of the wine.
Alcohol + Acidity + Residual Sugar + Tannins + Fruit = Total Wine Experience
When each of those components work in tandem, one blending seamlessly into the next without any element more dominant than the others, the wine is in balance, and our mouths are happy. It's hard to hate on a well-balanced wine. It's like getting mad at the Dalai Lama because you don't like the color of his robe. It's a superficial disrespect.