Wine Questions Asked: What Are Tannins?

This is a question I hear often, as tannins in wine are often referred too, but seldom explained. Tannins are responsible for the chemically induced reaction in our mouths that brings about the sensation of dryness, astringency, and sometimes bitterness. In short, wines heavy in tannin have spent more time with grape skins and stems, and likely in wooden barrels. When your tongue feels parched even though your mouth is full of red wine, or when the immediate reaction to taking a drink is to pucker your lips, those are tannins at work.

For a more complete explanation, here are two dynamically different links from great wine resources, explaining just what tannins are all about:

  • Wine Folly - By Madeline Puckette, concise and colorful, listing wines both heavy and light in tannins 
  • WineAnorak - Here, Jamie Goode takes a deeper, scientific approach 

I have a long friendship with tannic wines, having begun my wine journey on California Cabernet, and moving quickly to Barolos and other Italians made from Nebbiolo. Whether or not tannic wines are your preference, these articles will set you straight on the definition, and wines to avoid, or explore!