Tannins in Wine – What Exactly Are They?

tannins in wine

04 Aug Tannins in Wine – What Exactly Are They?

When a few wine aficionados get together for a wine tasting and to talk about their favourite wines, the topic of tannins is bound to surface. So what exactly are they? Tannins are a very important descriptor for any wine tasting – it refers to the astringency, dryness, and bitterness levels of a wine.

It’s necessary to keep in view that there is nothing either good or bad about tannins. Certain red wine varieties are relished and known for their higher tannin levels. But every wine drinker will have different preferences and not everyone enjoys a dry mouth. This is why it’s important to understand what tannins are and how they impact the flavour of the wine; understanding this concept is key to choosing wine that’s perfect for you.

Tannins facts

  • Tannins are a wine’s pucker power which is typically more apparent in younger red wines which haven’t had the time to mellow with age.
  • A wine with higher tannins will be described as astringent and bitter.
  • These are plant-derived polyphenols that are derived from the seeds, stems and skins of the grapes used in wine production.
  • Red wines have a higher tannin content compared to whites because they are in contact with the grapes for a much longer period of time.
  • They are the texture component that tends to “dry the mouth” when drinking a red wine.
  • Tannins are mostly responsible for giving red wine body or a defined structure.
  • These plant-derived polyphenols are often the reason why it’s recommended that a wine should be decanted before drinking. The air helps soften the tannins, especially in younger red wines.
  • Tannins are found in nuts such as almonds and walnuts, teas, spices like cinnamon & clove, dark chocolate, red beans and a few fruits such as quince, pomegranate and grapes.
  • Tannins may also get into in the wine from the oak barrels that are commonly used for numerous aged wines. The wine absorbs these tannins and lends the wine vanilla and oak flavouring.

The tannin test

It’s not easy to describe exactly what tannins are and it’s something you would be able to work through when you taste different wines. The other simple way of understanding what tannins are is to taste a cup of tea:

  • Brew an extremely strong cup of any black tea.
  • Take one sip before adding sugar or cream to mellow down its flavour
  • The astringent, drying compound that you taste is tannin.

This understanding will help you recognize the tannins in wines in a better way.

Red wines with high tannin levels

Many different styles of wines are considered to have high tannins levels and this often coincides with classic, ‘full-bodied’ red wines. While some wines of that same varietal may be less/more tannic due to the production process, you will normally find that these are all high tannin wines:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Bordeaux red wines
  • Shiraz or Syrah
  • Tuscan wines
  • Wines made with Sangiovese grapes

Beyond just the taste, wines that have higher tannin levels also age better in the bottle compared to those that have lower levels of tannin.

Red wines with low tannin levels

If you’re just started on your red wine exploration journey and don’t want to rush into tannins, here are a few sweeter wines you should consider trying:

  • German Riesling
  • Tempranillo
  • Pinot Noir

For information about custom wine cellar design, installation and spiral cellars, you can call Signature Cellars on 02 9340 7515 or use this contact form to get in touch with us. We’ll be pleased to assist you and provide custom solutions that match your requirements.

Thanks for reading,
Neil Smallman
Signature Cellars
1300 570 636

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