What Are Tannins in Wine?

If you’ve ever visited a winery or spoken to wine aficionados before, you’ve probably heard the word ‘tannins’ a number of times. You’ve also probably asked yourself, “what are tannins in wine?”

Whilst knowing what this term means is not at all a requirement for enjoying a glass of wine, it can help you recognise specific tastes and better understand what type of wines you will appreciate most.

So, What Are Tannins?

Tannins (scientifically referred to as polyphenols) are a group of naturally occurring astringent compounds, prominent within leaves, wood, bark, plants and fruit skins. Polyphenols are released from skin and stems when soaked in grape juice.

Plants have tannins to deter animals from consuming the plant before it’s fully grown and ripe due to its unpalatable nature.

Tannins are also the reason why you’re recommended to aerate a wine before consumption, as the air softens the pronounced taste of the tannins. Tannins are most present in red wines, fermented from whole grapes and seeds and more commonly aged within an oak barrel. Whilst tannins aren’t as distinct within white wines; they are there.

What Do Tannins in Wine Taste Like?

Tannins are responsible for the ‘dry mouth’ feeling you get after consumption. Tannins alone taste quite bitter – they’re also found in other common foods and beverages such as dark chocolate and tea. However, some tannins in wine can taste less bitter than others if other elements of the wine, such as sweetness mask the tang of bitterness.

The longer grape skins and seeds are soaked within the juice, the stronger the taste of tannins in wine. White wines undergo a shorter period of maceration and thus, the taste of tannins is less pronounced. Other winemaking decisions can also impact the strength of tannins in wine – harvest conditions, the temperature and duration of fermentation can also affect the overall tannic composition of wine.

Tannins in wine are often described as ‘astringent’. You may be asking, “why add tannin to wine?” Whilst this may sound unappealing, it’s actually one of the healthiest aspects of red wine. Moreover, tannins in wine soften with age and become less recognisable. A young red wine can taste quite acidic as the components have not had time to settle.

Tannins in wine provide the sensation of tugging on your cheeks or smoothing the inside of your mouth. However, tannins in wine can also be quite velvety and subtle.

If you’re interested in learning more about how tannins can affect the taste of different wines, Verwood Estate Wines hold cellar door experiences that are sure to expand your pallet. A lush vineyard and manicured gardens surround Verwood Estate Wines. Located in the Southern Highlands with many hidden treasures, our combination of fragrant wines and luxury accommodation is sure to create a great memory.

How Do You Know If A Wine Has Tannins?

As a general rule of thumb, tannins are present in all wines. If a wine is red, tannins are there. Some wines have a higher concentration of tannins and thus taste ‘dryer’. The dryer a wine tastes, the higher the number of tannins that exist.

It is essential for a wine to have tannins to protect the wine from bacteria, as it acts as a natural antioxidant. This is great news for us wine enthusiasts, as we all know antioxidants have great health benefits for humans! Tannins also help the wine to age and for the flavours to develop.

Is it possible to remove tannins from wine? – the answer is: yes. Tannins can be removed from wine through a process known as ‘fining’. Fining is rarely done, but is a practice used by winemakers if the wine is thought to be too astringent. 

Which Wines Have the Most Tannins?

Some grape varieties have more tannins than others. Red wines have a considerably larger number of tannins compared to white wines. Wines with a sizeable amount of tannins are easier to age – so go ahead and leave that Cabernet Sauvignon in your cellar for a few more years!

Moreover, the climate and temperature of a region will impact the development of tannins. A hot climate like the Barossa Valley produces super ripe grapes that make tannins in wine remarkably smooth. In contrast, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Bordeaux differ with warmer and cooler vintages.

Wines that are highest in tannins include:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Shiraz
  • Sirah
  • Nebbiolo
  • Tannat
  • Merlot

At Verwood Estate Winery, we stock several vintage wines that our team has carefully and passionately developed. Have a look at our Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 if you’re looking for a bottle of wine high in tannic. An easy to drink Cabernet Sauvignon that is smooth and full of flavour, but with a gentle palate. The final texture is subtle with a hint of vanilla and refined bitterness.

If you’re just beginning to delve into the wonderful world of red wine and want to ease into tannins, it could be worth trying some reds that are less bitter and sweeter.

 Wines that are lowest in tannic include:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Tempranillo
  • Grenache

If you’re looking to get started with a low tannin wine, we recommend our Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2019, a toasty wine with hints of stone fruit, custard apple and berries.

Are Tannins in Wine Bad for You?

No, tannins are not bad for your health. In fact, they may have benefits for your health due to their natural antioxidant properties protecting you from bacteria and other nasties.

However, some people report headaches after consumption of wine with a heavy composition of tannins. A good way to test if you’re susceptible to tannin induced headaches is to eat similar substances strong in tannins such as black tea or dark chocolate. It could be that it is purely the alcohol that is giving you a headache (or maybe the hangover has started early).

If you do realise that you suffer from tannin induced headaches, you may be asking, “why add tannin to wine?”. Without tannins in wine, the taste and texture we all know and love would be very different. To avoid future headaches, stick to white wines or red wines that are low in tannin composition.

Verwood Estate Wines

So, there you have it! Now you’re an expert on tannins in wine, and the next time you visit a winery or a dinner party, you’ll feel a part of the conversation.

Here at Verwood Estate Wines, we’re very passionate about the wines we’ve developed and the experience that we have created. Natalie, our owner takes immense pride in the cultivation of Verwood Estate Wines and satisfying the pallets of Australian’s across the country.

Verwood Estate is a story that begins with forgotten vines and neglected grounds brought to life by gentle rain from above. A love story built upon time, care, dedication and commitment. After a successful year in 2019, blessed by a warm, dry year of frost, we’re excited to share our 2019 Vintage Collection with you. Shop online today or visit our estate to experience a collection of wine from the Southern Highlands that is sure to make you fall in love.

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