You know when you are peeling your banana for your morning smoothie, and that little string is hanging off the side of the banana? And maybe because it’s still early, you think its a good idea, so you throw it in your mouth? Then, as soon as you do, you regret it?
That crazy bitterness is all tannin. Not surprisingly, that little string of tannin from the peel or skin of the banana is just like the tannin that comes for the skin of a grape.
Moving past the morning smoothie into the first glass of wine of the day… Tannin is the drying, bitter sensation you get in your mouth when drinking a glass of red wine. (Because the tannins come from the skin of a grape, tannin shows up more significantly in red wine). This sensation can be subtle or intense depending on a whole slew of different factors.
The first factor is how thick the skins are from the grape that the wine was made from. Each grape variety has a different thickness of skin. Pinot Noir, for example, is a thin-skinned red grape variety. Whereas, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Shiraz are thick-skinned varieties. Because of this, in Pinot Noir we expect lighter perceived tannins as well as a much lighter colour in our glass. (Colour comes along with tannins from the skin of the grape)
Other factors that influence levels of tannin are the level of ripeness of the grapes and the possible use of oak barrels in which a wine was aged. In some cases, tannin may even be apparent in white wine, depending if the wine has spent any time on its’ skins. This list can go on and on.
But what does tannin do for a glass of wine?
What is most important about tannin is how it contributes to the overall style and quality of a wine.
Most importantly, tannin gives structure to a wine. Think of it as the framework of a wine. This framework contributes to the longevity of a wine. This is part of the reason that red wines are typically more age worthy than white wines.
Tannin also contributes to the complexity of a wine. It supports the development of favours which happen over the course of time, which makes wines more interesting. Wines that are interesting for our brains as well as our palate we can call higher quality? Or just more fun.
When it comes to pairing wine with food, tannin in red wine helps a wine ‘stand up’ to fuller-flavoured foods. It has what you could call a love affair connection with protein. The combination of a tannic wine with a protein-rich food will make your wine seem more smooth and less bitter and astringent.
And now, we’ve slipped on the banana peel, sliding down the path to so many fun facts about wine. Who’s thirsty? Are you interested in learning more?
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