If you ask someone in the wine trade, does white wine have tannins? Most of the time, they’re going to say no. Really, that’s not correct. All wines carry some level of tannins, but white wines certainly have less tannin than do reds.
What are Tannins?
Let’s start with the basics, tannin is the part of a wine which makes you want to pucker your mouth when you drink it. It’s the “dry” part of the wine. For some people, tannin comes across their palate as a bitterness (often leading to their preference for white wines).
The highest amount of tannin comes from grape seeds, skins and the stems. As you might expect levels aren’t consistent from white wines to red and even among different grapes, let alone when taking into account winemaking choices.
Winemaking Choices and It’s Effect on Tannin Levels in White Wine:
Tannin comes from contact with seeds, skins or stems. When it comes to white wine, there are going to be times when the wine is in contact with the seeds. Eventually, usually within hours, those are filtered out. Secondly, yes, at times a winemaker will allow a white wine to soak in the skins for a time period. At most a few hours, let’s call it 8 or so at maximum. Normally not very long. Lastly, while whole cluster fermentation has become a thing in red wine, in white wine you might see it for Chardonnay or even Sauvignon Blanc, but only for a few hours (less than a day to be sure).
In terms of the level of tannins in white wine, winemaking choices are going to have more effect on the level of tannin than are the varietals in question (the vineyard location will as well) but in reality, there’s simply not much in the way of tannins in your average, mass marketed white wine.
So the next time you hear the question, does white wine have tannins? You’ll know that the only real answer is that, yes, but how much depends on a whole lot of other factors……but if you’re within the normal range of winemaking choices, a white wine doesn’t have much in the way of tannins.