What are tannins?

 
 
 

Tannins. What are they and what do they do?

Put simply, tannins are naturally occurring elements that make wines taste dry. That puckering feeling you get when you take a sip of a red wine? That’s the tannin.

Tannin is released from the grape skins, seeds and stems after they are pressed, and wines that are left to ferment with these in the juices have higher levels of tannin. White wines are not fermented with the skins still attached, which explains why they are not as tannic, i.e. they don’t contain as many tannins.

It is the fermentation process that also gives red wines their colour. The red skins of the grapes lose their colour during fermentation, which gets transferred to the juice and turns it red.

Tannin is an antioxidant, which means that it stops oxidation in wine and aids red wines to age well. But, antioxidants are also great for us as they stop free radicals in our bodies. One more reason to indulge with a glass of your favourite red!

But what if you don’t like the taste of highly tannic wine?

Good news! If you’re a lover of red wine, but not so much of the tannic taste, there are some options.

  1. Go for an older wine – the older the wine is, the longer the tannin has had to break down, resulting in a less astringent taste.

  2. Decant the wine and let it sit for an hour before drinking it. The exposure to oxygen reportedly reduces the tannic taste. But do some research before you decant, as different wines are best decanting for different amounts of times to get the most out of them.

Some red wines which are high in tannin are:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Nebbiolo

  • Syrah

Some low tannic wines are:

  • Pinot Noir

  • Whites and rosés

  • Aged wines

What are your favourite wines to drink? Do you prefer red wines, or are you more of a white wine person? Let us know in the comments.

Sources:
Wine Spectator: http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/how-to-serve-wine-decanting
Wine Folly: http://winefolly.com/review/what-are-tannins-in-wine/
Vine Pair: https://vinepair.com/wine-101/guide-to-tannins/