What are tannins?

A woman serving a man a glass of whine
There’s a lot to learn about wine. The geographical variations, the winemaking process, the terminology, the elaborate tasting descriptions. 
Surely you can enjoy wine without knowing much. And what a gift that is. But we’d argue that the more you know, the more you can appreciate the glass in front of you. 
So, where’s a good place to dive in? If you’re a fan of red wine, you’ve heard of tannins, but do you know what they are and where they come from? Let’s discuss.  

Where do tannins come from? 

The tannins in your wine come from the following sources: 
  • Grape skins
  • Grape seeds and stems 
  • Wood barrels used to age the wine 
They’re not exclusive to wine either. You’ll find tannins in everyday foods and drinks like tea, coffee, walnuts, almonds, and dark chocolate.  

About Tannic Wines

The strength of the tannins in your wine depends on how long the juice soaks with the grape skins, seeds, and stems after the grapes are pressed. This is called the maceration process. The longer the skins, stems, and seeds sit together, the more color and tannin are leached into the wine. 
You'll find tannins in red wine because winemakers use skins to impart color. Does white wine have tannins, you ask? The answer is typically no. This is because the juice and skins from white wine have minimal contact. 
Examples of tannic wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, and Merlot. Conversely, Pinot Noir and Grenache are low tannin wines. They have much thinner grape skins and therefore fewer tannins.  

Aging, Health & Headaches

Tannins also work as a natural antioxidant to protect the wine. Heard the saying that great wine tastes better with age? Tannins are a key reason for this. Plus, these antioxidants are good for you, providing heart-healthy benefits for us humans. Double win.
While we could go on and on about the benefits of red wines and tannins, some folks do associate headaches with tannic wines. Think you have an allergy or sensitivity to tannins? You may want to switch to Pinot Noir or white wines and see if your symptoms go away. 

What do tannic wines taste like? 

Want to enhance your understanding of tannins? Drink more red wine! What a drag, we know. 
Tannins have an astringent, bitter, mouth-coating feeling. If you hear someone say a wine has a nice “texture” or that it’s “grippy” they’re often referring to the noticeable tannins. They’re described as plush or velvety—obvious but pleasing. 
When you taste a red wine, swish it around in your mouth for a couple of seconds like mouthwash. Really let your whole mouth taste the wine. Tannins will dry out your tongue. They’ll taste bitter on the front and along the sides of your mouth. And after you swallow, you’ll experience a lasting drying sensation. 
Ask yourself a few questions. Do the tannins overwhelm your taste buds immediately? Or do they appear slowly? Are they nicely matched with other fruit and floral flavors? 

Food Pairings

Want to take the experience up a notch? Pair your tannic wine with some rich, fatty goods, like a ribeye, cheese, or an avocado. Tannins break up the richness of the fat, alleviating that drying sensation in your mouth. 
Want to learn more about tannins? Our experts are ready to help you pick out some quality red wine to taste and enjoy. Explore what's on tap and in our shop.

Category: Wine