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Wine Terms: Tannins
Wine Terms: Tannins
Jan 01, 2018

You may have felt a rough, leathery feeling in your mouth after you swallowed a sip of wine.

This feeling may have also left a slightly bitter taste in your mouth, similar to that from drinking over-brewed tea.

If you have experienced this, then you’ve likely tasted tannins.

The tannins in your wine originate from the skin, seeds, and stem of grapes. Oak barrels can also impart tannins into a wine. They are important in the winemaking process for red wines, which explains why tannins are very apparent in red wines. Since white wines are not fermented in contact with red grape skin, they have a less tannic structure.

Tannins are a very important component of red wine because of a few reasons:


1- They preserve wine and help it age well

You would be unhappy if the first sip of the wine you’ve been waiting to drink tastes like vinegar. Wine turns into vinegar after it is exposed to oxygen for a long time,

Tannins act as an antioxidant that guards the wine from turning into vinegar. It also helps maintain the wine’s structure in the aging process. Hence, high tannin wines age better than low tannin wines.


2- They give wine its color depth and affect its complexity

Compare the color depth of wines made from mostly Pinot Noir grapes with wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Pinot Noir wines tend to have a lighter red color compared to the Cabernet. This is because the skin from the Pinot Noir grape is thinner and gives a lighter red color.


3- They have health benefits

Because of its anti-oxidant qualities, there are health benefits from consuming wines with tannins.

How to ‘soften’ a tannic wine

Decanting can make a highly tannic wine feel more balanced. It makes tannins feel more integrated into the wine as well, which gives it a much ‘softer’ feel. It gives you the impression that the rough edges in the wine are more smoothed out.


A high tannin wine made of the Cabernet or Syrah grapes may need some decanting before drinking.

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