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Vines and Wines: balanced wine

        In life, we strive for balance. The same should be true when looking for a wine.
        But just what is a balanced wine?
        "I think the term 'balanced' is slightly overused," said Jim Compton, owner of J. Emerson, Fine Wine & Cheese, on Grove Avenue. "The most-used definition for a balanced wine is a wine that is seamless, where all the parts — bouquet, mouthfeel and finish — are in perfect harmony with each other.
        "Using that simple definition, Two Buck Chuck would qualify as one of the most balanced wines. It is a balanced wine, but so seamless as to be a bit forgettable.
        "The most interesting wines have balance or harmony in the presence of a certain tension and complexity, a tension between suppleness and structure, between fruit and tannins or fruit and acidity and a complexity that allows the wine to evolve in the glass presenting different tastes and aromas."
        Included in that balance is the acidity, which comes from naturally occurring grape acids such as tartaric and malic.
        "Acidity in wine is a key to wine enjoyment and a paramount component for matching wine to food," Compton said. "The best food-wine pairing usually involves a wine with an appropriate level of acidity. It is the acidity that cuts through fats, proteins and sauces and provides that complement where the food and the wine together are greater than the separate parts."
        A familiar term, good acidity, is often used to describe a wine.
        "The pleasant almost refreshing, slightly tart feeling in the front of our tongue and mouth that makes us salivate and smack our lips a bit," is the way Compton describes good acidity. "This is how our mouth reacts to the acid in the wine. At their worst, high-acid wines will have a green apple off-putting kind of sourness. Wines with very low acidity will have a watery or viscous feel, and we call them flabby and tired.
        "Wines made from grapes with higher acid, like riesling, can achieve balance by creating the right tension between the acid and the sugar and fruit. Wines made from grapes with slightly lower acid, like viogner, achieve balance with extraordinary aromas and a crème freche mouth feel."
        How different are red wines?
        "Red wines need acidity as well, and the types of acid in red wines is the same as white wines with a new addition of tannins and tannic acid," Compton said. "Acidity in red wines can be confused with tannins. Tannins are much more astringent and make you want to pucker. Tannins happen on your tongue and on the inside of your mouth, and sometimes can make you feel like the inside of your cheeks want to contract until they touch each other."
        Acidity. Tannins. Balance. What more could you ask for?