REALLY, WHAT ARE THEY?
Ah tannins. So often talked about, so rarely explained. You’ll see them referenced in just about every red wine review but unless you’ve been inducted into the wine Illuminati you’ve probably found yourself wondering what on earth the reviewer is talking about – A wall of tannin? What on earth is that? Don’t worry: I’ve got you covered.
LET THE LESSON BEGIN
This is an interactive lesson – I know, I hate audience participation stuff too, but it really is the only way in this case – so the first thing you’re going to need to do is go to the fridge and get yourself a grape. Preferably a red one but any kind will do. If you don’t have any grapes go ahead and pop down to the shops. It’s cool, I can wait.
Ok, you’ve got the grape. Now, peel it. Yes, I’m really asking you to peel a grape. Once you’ve got the skin off, stick a piece in your mouth. Kind of bitter right? Leaves your mouth feeling pretty dry? That’s tannins, that’s what they taste like (it’s more of a sensation then a taste I guess but whatever, this isn’t a science blog).
WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?
Tannins come from the skin and seeds of grapes, which is why tannins are mostly a factor for red wines (red wines are fermented with their skins, whites are not, unless you’re talking about skin-contact whites and that’s a subject for another day). So the next step in this lesson is for you to try a glass of red wine. I’d recommend one of your more tannic varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon or Nebbiolo, but any old red should do the trick. You can use our reviews and top picks to find a nice, affordable option.
Can you taste it? That slight (or not so slight) drying of your mouth as you swallow? That’s it. You’ve got it.
SO ARE THEY A GOOD THING OR A BAD THING?
It really depends on the quality of the wine, as well as your own palate. Some people hate the sensation outright and prefer to stick to white wines or less tannic reds like Pinot Noir. For others a well made, highly tannic wine is something to crave.
If you’d like to learn more about wine, check out Wine Explained.