Posts this month focus on what I call ‘winespeak’ which are terms that sometimes are obvious in meaning and others are not. Today’s word is tannin.
Recently I was talking to someone who was learning about wine and all the facets found in the taste of wine. He owns a restaurant and was looking for wines to pair with the style of food (Indonesian). I began talking about how acidity and tannins are the links between a great food and wine pairing because each plays an important role in the interplay between the two. I described tannins to him by saying, “remember when you were a kid and you licked a piece of chalk?” I then compared this feeling on the tongue to how tannins in red wine feel. Dusty, drying, almost gritty. And this is also why wines with tannins pair so well with food, especially rich in fat like cheese, steak, or ribs. It is the astringent quality in them which pairs so well with these types of food.
Where do they come from? The reason red wines are the tannin conveyors instead of white wines is because the reds are fermented with the grape skins-and they are the source of tannins. (White wines still have some tannin but a very low amount.)Tannins add body (a term for another day) framing the fruit and acidity. They also soften with age and become better in balance after a year in oak and more time in the bottle. A little Cabernet Sauvignon in my Dino will go nicely with this grilled steak.
Since you can’t photograph tannins I’ll leave you with a shot of our Cabernet Sauvignon ready for harvest in a previous vintage.