We imagine – romantically, but erroneously – that balance is a state of calm and tranquility. That while all around is hustle and bustle, balance reigns unperturbed, aloof from the clamour and din. Nothing is further than the tantalizing truth.
Balance is a contest of will. A struggle between competing forces.
Take, for example, balance in political power. You need – consciously, constantly and systematically – to put in place checks and balances so that biases, favouritism, cronynism, and corruption do not rule the day. Which is why we separate the powers of the executive, legislative and judiciary.
On a more mundane level, we hear of people striving to strike a balance between work and personal life. Even if that is ultimately illusory, in order to strike a balance, we have to make choices, compromises and sacrifices.
Balance is hard work between contentious priorities.
Where our favourite beverage is concerned, the most balanced and harmonious wine is one where fruit and structure compete eagerly and earnestly. Both do not care to lose out to the other. It is a physical struggle. A tactile test of will from beginning to lingering finish.
Our ideal is a wine that sings with fruit and flavour. As soon as that voice gets too loud and assertive, the acidity, tannins and alcohol – representing structure – leap onto the stage, demanding to be heard.
Balance is a jealous mistress who will not let anyone usurp the commonwealth. Far from being demur or placid, balance is a fight to the end where no one single virtue is allowed to dominate, let alone conquer. Paradoxically, because no one characteristic wins, everyone emerges victorious.
I recently had such a resounding wine.
Chardonnay is never more pure than when it is Chablis (or Blanc de Blancs Champagne). Dragged out of the Kimmeridgian earth – 89% unoaked and 11% in used 228- and 600-litre barrels – the unplugged white Burgundy was taut and tensioned like a wound-up musical box. Unleashing the melody was like swirling on a sheet of ice. Michel Laroche Le Domaine d’Henri Chablis Saint Pierre 2015 is a high-wire epic between the appley/green pineappley/chalky fruit and the wave after wave of acidity dashing against the rocks. The freshness was stalking the fruit like a ninja in pursuit. When the wine reached my lips, they crossed the finish line together.
CH’NG Poh Tiong is a prolific writer, senior wine judge and consultant. He has been a publisher of many magazines, guides and books including The Wine Review, the second oldest wine magazine in Asia. Poh Tiong is also writer of the world’s first guide to Bordeaux in Chinese.