As a wine drinker, you would probably know what tannins are, however have you ever thought about the accuracy of your knowledge? Despite the straightforward idea of tannins, the complexity of these vital descriptors of wine is surprising.
Tannins are basically an analog of various clotting agents in our blood. They break down proteins in plant life helping damaged plants to recover faster. The effect tannins have on our bodies is, in fact, about touch and texture, and not about sweetness as many tend to think. Once a tannic wine gets into the system, the tannins break down the protein chains in our saliva, that normally prevents our mouths from drying out. In order to decrease such an overwhelming drying sensation, tannic wines are normally paired with fatty foods for some balance.
The other common misperception about the nature of tannins is that they come from the grape skins, however, this is not the only way they can climb into your glass. The wine can also get tannic from grape seeds and even from the oak barrels. While the skins give wine that astringent sensation, seed tannins are bitter and are often masked by a high contains of sugar. Seed tannins are very common in the cheaper wines that are made from heavily pressed grapes. The oak tannins, on the other hand, are accumulated by the young wine very fast if aged in barrels, however, decanting them for an hour or two prior consumption can help the wine mellow. Fun fact, but tannins can also be found in teas, some types of nuts, spices and even fruits!
The wines that are high in tannins are often on the boozy side and are among the highest in alcohol. The list includes reds like Nebbiolo, Malbec, Cabaret Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and others. If you are into something extremely flavorful and heavy like these wines, yet want to avoid dancing on a table or getting a headache the day after, make sure to enjoy it with protein-rich foods and extra caution 🙂