Believe it or not, tannins are actually present all around us, from wood to the bark and leaves of trees, as well as the fruit plants like grapes, rhubarb, cranberries, and cacao.
However, tannins are most notably found in wine, aka the good stuff.
I’ve got you covered whether you have no clue what tannins are or want to learn more about them. So, let’s get into it.
What Are Tannins?
Tannins are a cluster of compounds that have a bitter, slightly acidic flavor. They are naturally occurring plant polyphenols found in nature. Tannins are particularly important because they give the wine some texture and body as well as a good mouth feel.
Additionally, tannins are the reason wine experts suggest letting the wine breathe or aerate before consuming it. The air helps buffer the intense flavor of the tannins, especially in young red wines.
Where Do Tannins Come From?
In regards to wine, tannins can come from 4 major sources. Tannins can be derived from grape seeds, seeds or pips, the grape stem, and even the barrels used to age the wine.
While the red wine ferments the skin, seeds, juice, and occasionally the stems macerate together. This fermentation process causes the color as well as tannins to seep into the wine. This is what gives a dry sensation when you drink a glass of red wine.
The alcohol that is produced during the fermentation process the alcohol disbands more tannins than water. In other words, the longer the skins and seeds macerate pre and post-fermentation, the stronger the tannins in the final wine will be.
Tannins are also derived from oak barrels used in making aged wines. The tannins from the oak wood are absorbed into the wine creating a vanilla flavor that becomes more pronounced.
Do All Wines Have Tannins?
All wines have tannins to a certain degree. After all, tannins are abundant in grape skins.
Nevertheless, some wines naturally contain higher levels of tannins. As I mentioned above, red wines are fermented with skins and seeds, so they have higher levels of tannins than white wines.
Since white wines are fermented without skins and seeds, they have lower levels of tannins. However, if white wines are fermented with the skins and seeds, they will have higher levels of tannins that are comparable to those in red wines. This will also create an orange-colored wine.
In terms of makeup, white wine’s profile is similar to that of red wine. However, white grapes contain smaller amounts of anthocyanins which gives red wine its color. Therefore, red wine has a different color than white wine.
How Do Tannins Taste?
There is no talking about tannins without discussing how they taste. Describing the taste of tannins is rather difficult. Therefore, it’s best to try them for yourself.
Alas, I must admit there is no wine involved in this little taste test. However, since tannins are found in tea, you will get to drink some tasty tea. This taste test lets you taste tannins without the wine’s other flavors getting in the way.
First, you must brew a cup of strong black tea. However, do not add any cream or sugar, as it will dilute the flavor of the tannins in the tea.
Drink the tea once you have prepared it. You should taste a bitter, slightly acidic flavor that dries your mouth. This is the taste of tannins.
Next, sample a glass of red wine and use your experience with the tea to pick up the flavor of tannins.
How Can You Tell if Wine Has Tannins?
Take a sip of the wine. Pay attention to how your tongue reacts to the wine, particularly the middle part of your tongue. If your tongue, as well as your teeth, are dry, your wine most likely has high levels of tannins.
Are Tannins Healthy?
Most people think that tannins are unhealthy. However, tannins are actually beneficial for health.
One study evaluated the effect of wine and tea tannins on oxidation occurring in the body. This study uncovered that wine tannins could withstand oxidation.
In contrast, tea tannins did not resist oxidation. In short, wine tannins are an antioxidant, and antioxidants are very good for your health as they can protect the body from free radicals, which are associated with cardiovascular disease, cancer as well as other diseases.
Well, now that you know what tannins are, you can think about them the next time you drink a glass of wine.