Tannin – it’s not something you do on a sunbed

Today I am going to do something WILD. Maybe it’s because I can almost feel the sun on my skin from my up-coming holiday, but…

Our letter is T.


For Tannin.

Why am I no longer following the A to Z chronologically I hear you cry. Well, there are some terms which are just way more important than others. Don’t panic I will come back to the other letters in due course.

So what’s tannin? Well it’s not something you do on a sunbed… which has been a response from one of our students in the past believe it or not.

Tannin is what turns a lot of people off about red wine. Especially ladies. Now hang on a second, I’m not being sexist, it’s true that generally women dislike tannin much more than men. This is most likely down to the fact that women are proven to have more taste-buds than men on the whole, therefore they are most sensitive to the sensation of tannin finding it both bitter and astringent.

Tannin is that mouth-drying sensation that you feel, sticking your cheeks to your gums. The exact same sensation you get when you drink tea that has been stewed for too long, or eat a really green unripe banana.

It comes from the skin of the grape – hence why you only get it in red wines. In a black grape all the colour is in the skin and the flesh (which makes the juice) is clear. As a result when you make whites you just chuck the skins away, but with red wines you keep them with the juice to pull out the colour. And at the same time the tannin will get pulled out too.

The great thing about tannin is that it chemically reacts with protein. So if you eat meat with your wine, then you’ll find that all the dryness goes away leaving just the juicy fruity flavours.

Often on a wine list when you see words like smooth, soft and velvety they are referring to the tannins of a wine – in other words it doesn’t feel really dry. If you see the word robust then you know this is probably a wine that you should pair with a big juicy steak.

7 thoughts on “Tannin – it’s not something you do on a sunbed

  1. Very nice write up – and your student’s response was plain awesome! :-) If I may just add one thing, tannins are also found in grape seeds (so they get extracted during maceration) and in the wood of wine barrels, which generally provides “softer” tannins.

    • I love my students! They make what could be a dull job very fun!

      It is true Stefano! You do indeed get tannin in the pips and ‘oak tannin’ which you can even experience in white wine.

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