If you’ve ever had a big, bold red wine that made your mouth dry out, you’ve experienced tannins!
What are Tannins?
Tannins or polyphenols are responsible for the “bitter” component in wine.
Where Do Tannins Come From?
- The skins, seeds and stems of the grapes; and
- The oak barrels in which the wine ages.
How do Tannins Affect Wine?
Tannins are released into the wine, when the skins, seeds or stems of the grapes sit in the juice. This is why you are more likely to experience tannins in red wine, because red wine has skin contact, whereas more often white wine does not.
Tannins act as a natural preservative, helping the development and, in the right proportion, balance of the wine.
The result is a wine with tannins like Cabernet Sauvignon or other bold reds. Oaked Chardonnays and other aged whites also contain some tannins, but usually the reds have higher tannic levels. The higher the tannic level, the longer the wine was aged and the better it will continue to age in your collection.
How do Tannins Affect you?
Tannins are also the cause of that dry mouth sensation which you either love or hate in your wine.
On the other hand, some people are sensitive to tannins. If you tend to get headaches after drinking red wine (and it’s not a hangover) it’s possible you have a sensitivity. Of course, there could be other non-tannin components of wine that may be the cause of your headaches. To check if you have a sensitivity to tannins, eat a few pieces of dark chocolate or drink strong black tea, both of which also have tannins.