There’s a lot of talk about “balance” in these notes, which is because many of the wines were awkwardly balanced. This is different from asymmetry. This is a palpable sense that the components are misaligned in some basic way. I do think that balance is ineluctable. We may perceive it differently according to our subjectivities, but we know when a wine is balanced and when it isn’t.
Balanced wines are quiet. Balance is something you barely notice because the wine is seamless and serene. Usually! Sometimes a wine’s balance is a high-wire act among several brash components that manage to coexist in some synergy. Those can be fun (“How did he pull that off?”) but for me they’re less fun than the calmer ones, because I cherish that sense of a wine having been ordained to exist in precisely that configuration. There is also a corollary risk that we mistake a symmetry of extremes for actual balance. The classic example, which comes from German Riesling, is to “correct” an excess of acidity with a corresponding excess of residual sugar. It almost never works.
Given that an excess of any one component renders a wine ipso-facto imbalanced, our subjectivities enter the picture when we consider which components those are. I dislike bitter flavors, as it happens, and when a wine finishes with any bitterness at all, I deem it imbalanced. You might not. You’ll find something else imbalanced, but not that. I’d argue that even if you tolerated bitterness better than I do – which is to say at all – you’d probably agree that it was aggressive, for you acceptably so, for me not. This assumes that neither of us is insensitive to this element or that (pyrazine, rotundone, etc.) and while any one person’s evaluation of a wine is expressive of her particularity, that doesn’t signify an absence of any objective flavors in that wine.
I say this because I want to be faithful to my impressions here, but I also want to remind you of my limitations and my uncontrollable preferences. If I say a wine is out of balance because its fruit melts away on the finish, leaving both bitterness and astringency, that is a wine with two left feet. “Your mileage may vary.”