You’re in a wine shop, contemplating a nice bottle of Merlot when a salesperson comes up to you and starts talking to you about how “smooth the tannins are,”.
You nod your head and pretend to be excited, too embarrassed to admit that you don’t have a clue about wine and tannins, and end up purchasing the bottle of wine… let’s be honest, we’ve all done it.
Now you’re here, trying to find answers – and we’re also here, to provide you with them.
What Are Tannins?
‘Tannin’ comes from the old German word, ‘Tannenbaum’. They’re small particles that are abundant in nature, and tend to be present in wood, leaves, skins and seeds. They can be used for a number of purposes, including dyeing leather and making wine.
You feel tannins more than you taste them – whenever you’ve eaten walnuts, you may have found that your mouth was dry afterwards, and you had a bitter taste on your tongue.
These sensations are the work of tannins, and can also be found when drinking a good glass of wine. Other foods that contain a lot of tannins are berries, pomegranate, dark chocolate, beans and coffee.
How Do They End Up In My Wine?
Well, tannins can pass into wine from either wood storing (or oak aging), where the wine is stored in oak barrels, or from grape skins, seeds and stems used to make the wine.
The effect caused by the tannins varies based on where the tannins are from – grape skin tannins tend to affect the back of the tongue, oak tannins typically affect the front of the tongue and stem and seed tannins usually affect the teeth and gums.
The longer the wine is aged, the softer and therefore stronger the tannins will be. This is one of the reasons as to why some wines are more expensive than others, as they can only be sold after being stored for a large amount of time.
Tannins also help to preserve wine, meaning that it can be stored for long periods of time.
Red wine is made when grapes are fermented alongside the skin and seeds, as this extracts the colour as well as the tannins, and is the reason red wines can have such strong tannins.
Not surprisingly, red wines taste the most astringent, and can also have a sweet, rich and dark flavour.
White wines don’t have many tannins as the skins and seeds are removed before fermenting the grape juice. White wines are usually quite crisp.
Rosé’s are made when the grapes and seeds aren’t softened as much as in red wine, resulting in much less tannins. They can be sweet or dry, but are more often dry.
Wine And Meat
Red wines are known for going well with meat, due to the fact that tannins actually melt the fat in any meat that you might eat or cook with it, releasing those rich, meaty flavours.
They’re a good pairing for more reasons than one, though, as the fat in the meat actually softens the tannins in the wine, therefore also releasing the wine flavours as a result!
When eating meat, you might find that fattier meats such as lamb can coat your mouth, leaving you with a weird feeling. Wine is an excellent pairing for this, as the tannins help to strip the layer of fat from your tongue – a true palette cleanser!
Health Benefits Of Tannins
Who said wine was bad for you? Tannins have been found to slow down cell division in cancer, meaning that they can help to prevent you from getting it. Tannins have also been found to be antibacterial as well as antioxidants.
We’ve covered a lot about what tannins are and where they come from. This is great news! Now you can decide whether you prefer the strong taste of tannins that can come with red wine, or if you would rather a crisper white wine.
Not only this, but you now know how wine and meat work in conjunction with each other! You can march back into that wine shop with pride, head held high, ready to organise the dinner party of your dreams. Good luck!