Wine 101: Terms: Tannins

This episode of “Wine 101” is sponsored by Pahlmeyer Winery. News flash: The red blend is the most exciting new category of American wine. The obsession began with the classic Bordeaux-style blend that California winemakers love so much. Pahlmeyer epitomizes the new red wine blend while calling back to the iconic region. A sip of this and you’ll think you’ve teleported to French winemaking country.

Tannins — you’ve probably heard of them. They’re a quintessential part of the red wine experience, and though they’re immediately perceived as astringency, tannins give wine structure, color, complexity, and a touch of needed bitterness.

On a scientific level, tannins are a collection of compounds found in the bark of trees — notably oak — and in the seeds, stems, and skins of fruits. When grapes are crushed and fermented, these compounds begin to elongate and interact with proteins in the wine. As those proteins precipitate, the wine eventually softens. This process bears many parallels to that of tanning leather, and that, wine lovers, is where the term “tannin” actually originated.

Age-worthy wines tend to have high tannin levels from the get-go, but as they sit in the cellar, those tannins will break down into sediment and help the wine evolve. This is not only reflected on the palate, but the color of the wine itself will begin to change from a deep, inky purple hue to a more translucent, light red.

Although tannins are most associated with reds, they can be present in white wines, too, but to a lesser extent. In this case, the tannins won’t come from the grape skins and stems, but from oak barrels, especially if the oak is young and hasn’t been used to previously store other wines.

Tannin management can be a pretty complex, delicate process, but the end goal is — like with all wine — achieving balance. On this episode of “Wine 101,” Keith comes equipped to give us a crash course on tannins and all the terminology around them. Tune in for more.

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“Wine 101” was produced, recorded, and edited by yours truly, Keith Beavers, at the VinePair headquarters in New York City. I want to give a big old shout-out to co-founders Adam Teeter and Josh Malin for creating VinePair. Big shout-out to Danielle Grinberg, the art director of VinePair, for creating the most awesome logo for this podcast. Also, Darby Cicci for the theme song. Listen to this. And I want to thank the entire VinePair staff for helping me learn something new every day. See you next week.

E. & J. Gallo Winery is excited to sponsor this episode of VinePair’s “Wine 101.” Gallo always welcomes new friends to wine with an amazingly wide spectrum of favorites, ranging from everyday to luxury and sparkling wine. (Gallo also makes award-winning spirits, but this is a wine podcast.) Whether you are new to wine or an aficionado, Gallo welcomes you to wine. Visit today to find your next favorite, where shipping is available.