Loose Tannins

If you drink red wine, you have probably at least heard the word “tannins” in connection with either the taste or the physical sensation produced when you drink the wine. But what exactly are tannins? Tannins are phenolic compounds present in the skin, seeds and stems of grapes, and in the oak used for barrels. The longer the juice of red grapes is kept in contact with these solid parts, the more tannic the wine can become. Tannins are detectable in two ways: 1) a bitter taste; and 2) astringency – a cotton mouth feeling that occurs when tannins react with protein in the drinker’s saliva. They are also responsible for intense pigment in wine. Tannins bond with proteins in wine and precipitate out as the wine ages, causing the wine to become less harsh and less intense in color. Although oak cooperage can also contribute to tannins, it is not a significant amount. Tannin levels vary from grape to grape. The four most tannic grapes in the world are cabernet sauvignon, nebbiolo, syrah, and tannat. Pinot noir, by comparison, has half the tannin content of cabernet sauvignon. Personally, I just adore loose tannins. Cheers!