What do you should know about Tannins Wine

First impressions…
Tannins in wine have been described (most commonly by novice wine drinkers) as making wine difficult to drink.  And not surprisingly so, since tannins are typically known for producing a “dry, puckered and fury” sensation in your mouth.

So what exactly are tannins and where do they come from?
For many wine drinkers tannins still appear a mystery and are often used in a broad manner to describe red wines.  I myself have come to the conclusion that to truly understand the full spectrum, character and structure of these polyphenols one needs a certain degree in bio chemistry. 

However since we are only addressing the tannins that are found in wine I will (without a degree in bio chemistry but with great confidence) describe these tannins in the most simplistic terms.

So to begin with tannins are astringent plant polyphenols that are bitter in taste. They basically bind and shrink proteins. Being astringent they draw out liquids while closing pores.  And to the surprise of many people are not unique to the world of wine.

And what is a Polyphenol?
Polyphenols are a large family of natural compounds widely circulated in plant foods and are mainly located on the surface wax of these plants.  Because these polyphenols exist on the outer surface wax they have no effect on the plant’s natural metabolism and appear to be an incredible defense mechanism compliments of Mother Nature. In addition to plant foods tannins are also found in leaf, bud, seed, stem and root tissues.

An example of some food products that contain tannins are:

These tannins are easily detectable in a strong brew
Fruit such as grapes, most berries, apples, pomegranate and persimmon.
Smoked food
Tannins are introduced through wood products used in the smoked process
Citrus fruit juices
While citrus fruits don’t contain tannins some of the dyes used to make them do
Various condiments
Such as vanilla, cinnamon and cloves
Tannins found in chocolate are not nearly as much as wine, the tannins found in one bottle of wine are equivalent to approximately 95 candy bars!
What’s this beer for real?  While tannins can be found in beer it’s typically not a desirable ingredient however there are a few styles that truly benefit from this bitter polyphenols
Oh yes and how can we forget wine. 

Tannins found in wine
Tannins found in wine come from the stems, skins and seeds as well as from the wood barrels and casks used during the fermentation and aging process.  Keep in mind that the different tannins will impart different tastes and tactile sensations in the final product.  With this being said you can imagine all the different tannins that can be introduced especially since tannins are different among the different styles of wood. 

Tannins that are found in the skins and seeds are far more noticeable in red wines since they are in contact with the juice throughout the fermentation process.  The harshest and most bitter tannins are found in the seeds and so modern day winemakers are very careful as to not crush the seeds while pressing the grapes to insure that any undesirable bitter flavors do not find their way into the wine.

Tannins helping the wine age gracefully
Tannins are significant in preventing oxidation in aging wine and seem to polymerize making up the largest portion of the sediment found in wine. The natural tannins found in wine are thought of as a sign of longevity and / or agability.  After a while though these tannins will eventually decompose over time and the tannic wine then begins to mellow and improve with age.  Yes a strong tannic structure will surely help a red wine grow old gracefully and allow it to survive for as long as 30 years or more!

And the health benefits of tannins are…
Now we couldn’t forget to mention the health benefits these tannins present.  Why I always feel there is a good reason to have a glass and this is by far one of the top reasons.  Studies show that tannins across the board present many health benefits from extracting poising to prohibiting serious disease.  And some recent studies have indicated that these tannins found in wine may have a positive effect on vascular health.  Apparently these tannins suppressed the production of the peptides responsible for hardening arteries.  Well if that is a good enough reason to have a glass of red every day I don’t know what is. 

Grape Growing and Wine Making Tips:


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