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Tackling Tannins

In my first post here last month I wrote about the differences between sugar and sweet flavors that come in the form of fruit profiles in wine. I promised we would cover more of this and today I would like to talk tannin. I do this because it is very important to have a good understanding of the components in wine in order to fully appreciate them and more importantly to find the right bottle to drink.

I find many of my guests are confused by the idea of tannins – what they do and where we find them. Tannins are found in the skin of the grape and are imparted to the juice during maceration, thus we find them mostly in red wine. The thicker the skin the more tannic a wine will be. Thin skinned varietals like Pinot Noir impart little tannin while thick skinned grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon can make highly tannic wines.

If you would like to know whether you prefer wine with tannin or not, but are unsure as to what tannins feel like, go no further than your pantry. Get two bags of black tea and steep them both, one for 5 minutes and the other for 10 minutes. Black tea also has tannins. By steeping the one longer than the other and then tasting them side by side, you will quickly learn what tannins taste like and how they feel on your palate. This should then help you indentify them in the wine you drink.

Why do we like tannin? It helps wine work with food. If you’ve read my previous post on pairing red wine with beef you will see tannins are very important when dealing with high fat content. In the same way that acid balances richness, tannins can help battle a perfectly marbled rib eye. Many reds take years for their tannins to fall in balance with their other components but when they do it can be magical. Often you will find that new world styles of wine feature silky tannins that allow them to be consumed and enjoyed in their youth.

Hopefully this helps you in your quest to fine the perfect wine for you!