Tannins. Another of those essential words in a wine lover's vocabulary.

We explain its meaning in this article. Not only so that you can take part in conversations, but above all so that you know how to take advantage of its characteristics and enrich your tasting experience.

What are tannins?

Tannins are organic substances found in many plants and fruits that act as a defence mechanism against external agents. By protecting them from microorganisms, animals or ultraviolet radiation, they allow them to develop, mature and complete their natural cycle.
Tannins can be found in grape skins, seeds and stems.
The amount of tannins differs from grape variety to grape variety. Generally speaking, the thicker the grape skin, the greater the amount of tannins that can be extracted from it.

The incorporation of tannins into wines

Tannins are extracted during the winemaking process, when the must comes into contact with the grape skins.
In addition, they can also be incorporated from the wood of the barrels in which the wine is aged. Oak, in particular, is rich in tannins, and the younger the barrel and the longer the wine is in contact with the wood, the more pronounced this presence will be.
There are also so-called oenological tannins, industrial substances extracted from various plants that winemakers can add to the wine as required.

Do all wines have tannins?

Realising their origin, it follows that all wines eventually contain some level of tannins, even if it is minimal and barely perceptible.
In red wines, tannins are more prominent because the wine is fermented with the skins and seeds of the grapes, which are the richest part of these components. Whites and rosés, on the other hand, tend to have lower levels of tannins, their concentration depending on how long the must has been in contact with the skins, pips and stems and whether or not it has been aged in wooden barrels.

How do you identify tannins in a wine?

Tannins can be detected by the texture and sensation that the wine leaves on the palate after tasting. They interact with the proteins present in saliva, causing it to lose its lubricating properties.

Wines rich in tannins cause dryness in the mouth, an impression of cork on the tongue and a contraction of the gums. This sensation is called astringency which, when balanced, contributes to a more complex and enjoyable tasting experience.

The role of tannins in wine complexity

Depending on their more or less noticeable presence, tannins give the wine unique characteristics, such as
> Colour and appearance:
They contribute to the intensity and tone of the colour, especially in red wines.
> Body and complexity:
They are structural elements, capable of adding volume and complexity to the wine.
> Texture and flavour:
They influence texture and mouthfeel. With proper maturation, the tannins are softened, giving the wine a smooth, velvety texture without compromising the richness of the aromas and flavours.
> Ageing potential:
Through their antioxidant properties, tannins act as natural preservatives, contributing to the longevity and greater ageing potential of some wines.

Looking for the perfect tannins

Too much tannin can make the wine too bitter and astringent, while not enough can result in a wine that lacks structure.
The challenge is to find a perfect balance, where tannins are harmoniously integrated with other elements of the wine, such as fruit, acidity and alcohol. It's up to the winemaker to define and monitor the wine's tannic profile, according to the objectives they have in mind and the type of wine they want to create. This involves making a series of decisions throughout the process, from growing to vinifying the grapes.

How do you take advantage of more tannic wines?

Wines with a lot of tannins harmonise perfectly with fatty foods, such as hard cheeses or red meats, as the fat helps to soften their astringency.
In addition, letting the wine breathe for a few minutes before drinking it can help soften these tannins, making it more balanced.
Temperature also has an influence on the perception of tannins, and we recommend tasting a more astringent wine at a temperature that is not too low. 

Explore the tannins and elevate your tasting experience

Learning to take advantage of the characteristics of tannins is essential in any wine lover's journey of discovery, taking the tasting experience to a new level.
So that you can fully explore the complexity and richness of flavours that more tannic wines can offer you, we invite you to discover the selection of labels we have prepared for you, available in our UVA Wine Shop.