Australian wine varieties purple wine grapes with tannins on green leaf vine
Grapes & Wines Wine Learning

What are tannins? Are they good or bad?

If you like wine you’ve probably heard of tannins by now. So what are tannins, how are they created and which wines have more than others? Well, let me tell ya…

What are tannins? Tannins are naturally occurring , slightly bitter compounds in wine grapes. They’re the back bone of red wine and you might hear them being described as astringent (causing contraction of skin cells or body tissues) or dry (because they can dry out your mouth).

Where does tannin in wine come from? They can come from grape stems, skins or seeds or the oak barrels winemakers use for aging their wines.

Right, and how does it work then?Different grapes naturally contain more or less tannin. Winemakers can then fiddle with the production process to increase or slow tannins. For example, if they leave the skin on the grapes for a longer period of time, the wine becomes more tannic.

Yep, so what does that taste like?Tannin in wine contributes to how it feels in your mouth, the texture of the wine and it’s aging potential. To be honest it doesn’t necessarily taste like much. But it feels like a drying sensation in your mouth. In saying that, tannins have been linked to black tea or walnut taste. Blergh.

Which wines are high in tannins (or especially tannic)? A few examples include Malbec, Shiraz, Pinotage (Pinot Noir and Cinsault mixed together), Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. Other medium to high tannic wines include Carmenere, Tempranillo and Syrah.

What should I eat with wines high in tannin?Try steak, lamb or cheese. Anything high in fat really as this counteracts astringency that wines high in tannins can cause. I mean, that sounds like a good meal to me.

So, are tannins good or bad? I don’t want to get too heavy on the health pros and cons because, you know, everything in moderation and all that. In terms of the wine, tannins are good. They help preserve the wine from oxygen making them often keep better than whites. And the longer you keep reds, the softer they get. Yum.In terms of people and what they do to our perishable internal organs and the like is up for debate. Too many can irritate your stomach, a little has been said to be good for your heart.

In conclusion, tannins are good in moderation and with lush, fatty food. So crack on.

Know where you can get good red wine? Hawkesbury River. Read about that here.

And if you want to see what stomping red wine looks like, read about my grape stomping experience at Urban Winery here.

Feeling like you’re one step further to getting this down to a wine art? Leave me a comment below.

Cheers, Lorna

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