The phrase well balanced wine is totally overused. I think about 99% of all wine labels actually say this somewhere. That would mean that that phrase means nothing. The actual meaning is as follows, and the key is that you will simply have to find out for yourself whether a wine is well balanced.

Balance has to do with the 4 components of wine: alcohol, acid, tannin and fruit (or sugar if you are getting technical). A well balanced wine is one that takes all of these components and blends them harmoniously into one beautiful beverage.

A wine that has too much alcohol is called “Alcoholic”. This can usually be determined by smelling the wine. It will smell like alcohol (surprise), but it may also taste too sharp or cause a burning in the back of the throat. One way to practice detecting an alcoholic wine is if you ever get a red wine that is served too warm, you will notice a sharpness which is the alcohol. At higher temperature the alcohol expresses itself more.

An overly acidic wine will also have a sharpness and bite, like a lemon or vinegar. This is termed acidic.

An overly tannic wine, also called “hard” or “harsh” wine will have an abrasive mouthfeel to it. This is not necessarily a flaw, as some people, especially veteran drinkers may actually prefer a lot of tannin in their wine. It keeps things interesting for some people. The varietal Tannat, which is the Uruguayan national varietal is named after tannins because it is the most tannic of grape varietals.

Finally we come to fruit or sugar which is the most subjective of characteristics. Not residual sugar mind you. Residual sugar is easily quantifiable. But one’s preference on how much fruit one wants in a wine is why we do so many wine tastings to find out what we like.