What are Tannins in Wines?

The tannins are responsible for the dryness of red wine. Try this experiment to understand the dryness of red wine: Open a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, or Syrah, two wines that are notably tannins. Take a sip and swish it around in your mouth as if you were auditioning for Listerine. You’ve been warned. It won’t be pleasant. After you’ve spit out or sucked the drink, run your tongue along your upper teeth and the inside of your cheeks. The tannins will make them feel like sandpaper.

It’s only natural to ask Why we need or want tannins if it is such an unpleasant feeling?

First, you shouldn’t treat your wine as a mouthwash. It is not the proper way to taste wine. If you did this at a dinner party, your family and friends would probably get up and leave. Swirling, sniffing, and slurping are all part of the proper tasting technique.

However, tannins and acidity are critical components in the structure of red wines. White wine is primarily composed of acidity. It has little tannins. The tannins in red wine are what frame the fruity and savory notes. Tannins also allow the wine to age if it is meant to.

Tannins in Wine: Where do they come from?

Tannins are mainly found in grape skins. Tannins can also be found in stems and seeds. Some producers, notably Pinot Noir, might use stems to build more structure in their wines. Pinot Noir, with its thin, skinned grapes, produces a wine that is less tannin than Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah. Red wines have tannins because of the way they are made. White wines don’t. Both color and tannins can be extracted from the skins of red wine as the juice macerates. Skin contact is not required for most white wines. Tannins, therefore, are not present in the finished product.

There are tannins found in oak. Some Chardonnays may have oak tannins that can be detected, mainly when a large percentage of new oak is used.

Tannins are a great way to counterbalance the fats and proteins in your food. This will soften the tannins’ perception. The classic pairing of tannic wine and well-marbled beef is a tannic red wine and well-marbled. Both are improved by the other.

Not all tannins, however, are the same. They evolve and mature throughout the growing season. The tannins in grapes picked too early can have “woody” or astringent characteristics. The tannins of grapes determined at optimal ripeness have a slightly sweeter flavor. However, tannins are not “sweet” like ripe fruit flavors might be. Wines intended to be aged for a long time often have tannins that must soften and mature.

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