There are a number of terms within the wine industry that we take for granted, but that the average consumer, might not be familiar with. Tannins probably comes up more often within the industry than we care to admit, but what are tannins?
Tannins exist in all the parts of the grape, which aren’t the juice. So basically we’re talking about grape skins, seeds and grape stems.
You experience tannin in two ways generally and if you’re unlucky, a third. First, tannins can lead to the sensation of dryness in your mouth. Secondly, tannins can cause you to pucker your cheeks when you drink wine.
As for those that are unlucky, it’s generally accepted that tannins are the reason that some people experience headaches from wine, especially red wine since the tannin levels of red wine are so much higher.
As you might expect, different grapes carry different levels of tannin naturally in large part because of the thickness of their skin. Pinot Noir is a finicky grape, in large part because it has a very thin skin. So less tannins than say Carignan which comes with a much thicker skin.
There are also a ton of winemaker choices that go into the amount of tannin in a wine. Allowing grapes to ferment with longer skin contact, increases tannins. Fermenting with whole clusters does the same. Of course as is the case with a lot of winemaking, some winemakers will tell you that some of the choices that seem to add more tannins to wine, actually don’t.
In any case, if you’re wondering what are tannins? They’re the part of your glass of wine, that dries out your mouth and provides structure to what you’re drinking.