Wine tannins are the compounds that have the most influence on the structure of a wine, especially in the macerated wines, that is, mostly reds.
Tannins are abundant in nature, especially in trees, leaves, vegetables, seeds and of course in the skin of many fruits, such as grapes.
They are compounds that belong to a large family named polyphenols, where, for example, anthocyanins are included, elements responsible for the color in red wines.
Do you know that feeling we get when we eat a green banana? Tannins generate precisely that dry feeling in the palate. They are a bitter and astringent chemical compound, which are important characteristics to protect seeds and fruits unmature, during ripening, since they make them unpalatable, preventing animals from eating them.
Tannins in wines are of fundamental importance in terms of their structure.
The result of the relationship between the tannins in wine and its acidity is what we call structure.
In red wines, or in macerated whites - like Orange wines - acidity has a huge impact on the texture and flavor of tannins. In the case of white and rosé wines with little or no maceration, it is the acidity that dominates the structure of the wines.
Although you may think that these compounds in wines have the greatest importance in the longevity of a wine, remember that there are white wines that can have equal or even greater longevity, without having almost any presence of them in its structure.
Although tannins have some influence on the aging of wines, the main function has to do with the importance they have in the structure. During the vinification of red wines it is crucial to extract tannins in order to fix and stabilize the color of the wine and, at the same time, guarantee a natural source against oxidation.
The winemaker, in seeking to guarantee these two functions, is concerned with creating a balanced structure without ever forgetting that, in the end, what will count is the taste and the texture sensation that they will leave in the wine, together with the alcohol.
The characteristics of tannins in wines are closely linked to the tactile sensations that the texture of the wine transmits to us. They can also be related to taste, but in this case, it is not a good sign, since what they are going to transmit is bitterness.
Regarding the texture, I challenge you to do a test. Taste a wine and try to understand how the tannins feel. If you feel silky and velvety, know that it usually corresponds to better maturation and possibly warmer regions. If you feel them present, but in a way well integrated, this usually takes us to cooler regions.
If they feel bitter and very astringent, then they will have been poorly ripened, green grapes, with poor viticulture or vineyards with unbalanced productivity. And if you feel them without edges, polished, or elegant, know that it may be the result of slightly tannic grape varieties or wines with some aging.
The next time you taste a wine, try to see if the tannins are noble and if they are integrated or if, instead, they are rough and reactive. Also try to understand if they appear slowly or if your mouth dries quickly, if you dominate all the wine or if they are in balance with the fruit.
Experiment, discover and awaken the ‘oenophile’ in you.