What makes a great wine, in my opinion, is a sense of inevitability. Great wines are or become what they are meant to be. They have a sense of cohesion and a sense of propriety and a sense of promise. They do not show all that they will be in every sip, instead, they show you balance now and a hint at their full glory. Great wines are always in the process of becoming…perhaps an apotheosis in the greatest of examples…but always on their way to fulfilling their true natures.
Balance is certainly a great part of it. A great wine by definition is one that on its best day is utterly whole. There isn’t anything more or less you’d ask of it. That wine has the right combination of weight and fruit and acid and tannin and length. All the corners have been sanded and you are left with a perfect sphere. Or to put it another way, like Michaelango’s David, all the excess rock was broken off until perfection was the only thing left. Unlike that statue, though, the state of perfection is unbearably transitory. And it is this quality, this briefness, this mutability, this only-of-the-momentness that is the true glory of wine.
Really good wine gives a pleasure that is thrilling in its physical briefness, and very long in the memories that it creates. A great wine has the power to transfigure Time.