Tannins are a group of bitter caustic compounds found in fruits and the leaves of tea, cranberry, rhubarb, oak, walnut, grapes, and cacao. Tannins are also present in the wood and barks of trees. Most importantly, tannins are also found in wines.
Tannins help plants repel animals by making their leaves and barks unpalatable. This works to protect their seeds and fruits from being eaten or destroyed before they are ripe. Have you ever had a bite of an unripe plum or pear? That bitter taste that filled your mouth soon after was as a result of tannins. Did you know that tannins from tree barks is used to make leather from animal hides?
When managed properly and carefully, the bitter astringent taste of tannins can be transformed into a pleasant taste. Examples of foods and drinks that are produced from the mastery of tannins include dark chocolate, coffee, tea, and wine.
Tannins in wine
Are you wondering how tannins find their way into wine? Well, here is how. Tannins gets into wine from four major sources: the skins of grapes, the seeds from the fruits used in production of wine, the stems of grapes and other vines used in wine production, and the wood barrels that wines are stored in during aging.
Tannins provide wine with texture and add structure and weight to the wines. Have you ever wondered where the dry sensation comes from every time you sip wine, especially the red variety? Red wine is made from whole grapes left to ferment for a while. During fermentation, the skins, stems, and juice from the grapes used macerate together. It is during the maceration process that all the tannins and color leach into the wine. Unlike red wine that is produced from the entire grape, white wine contains few tannins because it is produced from the juice pressed from grapes.
Description of tannins
There is a difference between the quantity and quality of tannins in wine. Wine that contains a comfortable amount of tannins, a noticeable amount that is not too much, has a grippy texture to the tongue.
Green tannins are known to be unpleasantly astringent and have some bitterness. Elegant tannins, on the other hand, have a fine texture. Although noticeable in the wine, the tannins give the wine a pleasant taste.
Most mature wines contain tannins that are resolved, meaning that they no longer produce an astringent taste. Instead, they are soft and smooth.
Do tannins assist in the aging of wine?
Most people argue that tannins help wine to age magnificently, but this may not be entirely true. White wine is known to age delicately and magnificently without any tannins, which means that tannins may not play a significant role in aging wine. However, tannins can change the mouth feel of red wine that has aged. When red wine is produced, the tannins exist in small molecules within the wine. As the wine ages, the tannins combine into larger molecules that give the mature red wine a smooth, less astringent taste.