Tannins, an integral component of wine, play a significant role in shaping its structure and character. While tannins add depth and texture to the wine, they can sometimes be overpowering, creating a harsh and astringent sensation that may detract from the overall enjoyment of the drink. So, how to soften tannins in wine?
In this article, we delve into the fascinating realm of tannins and explore effective methods to soften them, transforming a robust and tannic wine into a more balanced and harmonious libation.
What are Tannins?
Tannins, which are naturally present polyphenols in plants, evoke a dry and astringent sensation when they come into contact with your tongue.
These plant compounds, known as tannins, contribute to the texture, balance, and overall structure of various dishes, foods, and beverages.
In the context of wine, tannins originate from different parts of the grape, including the stems, leaves, seeds, and skin. They play a significant role in the health benefits associated with wine, primarily through the presence of antioxidants. These antioxidants help safeguard your cells against harmful free radicals, potentially reducing the risk of ailments such as cancer, heart disease, and various other health conditions.
Editor’s Note: Tannins are compounds found in red wines that make your mouth dry. To understand tannins make three cups of black tea and steep them for different periods of time. Steep on for a minute, one for five minutes, and one for ten. Drink a few sips of each tea and notice how dry your mouth feels. Acid is what makes a wine taste sour.
What makes highly tannin wine?
However, numerous individuals find the bitter and astringent sensation caused by highly tannic wines unpleasant. The level of tannins can be influenced by various factors, ranging from the specific grape variety used to the duration of grape sediment sitting in the must before filtration.
In general, red wines possess higher tannin levels compared to white or rosé wines because the grape skins are typically retained during the winemaking process.
Additionally, grapes with thicker skins tend to contribute more tannins to the resulting wines.
Moreover, some winemakers choose to add tannins to their wines to enhance preservation, although this is typically unnecessary as the tannins naturally present in the wines should suffice for preservation purposes.
Through experience, wine enthusiasts can develop the ability to discern higher tannin levels in a wine simply by its aroma, even before it touches the tongue. However, upon tasting, if you notice an immediate drying sensation in your mouth, particularly in the middle of your tongue, it indicates that your wine contains a significant amount of tannins.
Why would you want to soften tannins in wine?
Appreciation for tannins ultimately boils down to personal preference. Some individuals adore highly tannic wines, in the same way, they relish strong black coffee or intensely dark chocolate. The bitterness associated with tannins is truly an acquired taste.
On the other hand, some people desire to experience flavors that extend beyond the realm of tannins. They believe that tannins can hinder the level of enjoyment they derive from a superb glass of wine. Consequently, they strive to mitigate the presence of tannins.
Fortunately, genuine tannin allergies are quite rare, affecting less than 1% of the population according to most sources. This is promising because an allergy to tannins can result in headaches and nausea upon consumption.
In many cases, individuals who suspect they have a tannin intolerance are experiencing dehydration due to the alcohol content in their system. They can alleviate their symptoms by drinking one glass of water for every glass of wine consumed and/or by incorporating Vitamin C into their diets on days when they drink wine.
How to Soften Tannins in Wine?
To diminish tannins in your wine as a winemaker, opt for lighter-colored grapes with thinner skins, as they tend to contribute fewer tannins. White and rosé wines typically have lower tannin levels.
Furthermore, refrain from adding additional tannins for preservation.
However, if you already have a highly tannic wine on hand, there are still methods available to soften the tannins and enhance the enjoyment of the wine’s flavors and aromas.
One effective approach is to exercise patience and allow your wine to age.
With time, aged wine undergoes a significant mellowing process. If possible, store your highly tannic bottles for several months, or even up to a year, before giving them another try.
You will likely encounter a delightful transformation in your wine, as it evolves and matures during the aging process.
However, it is understandable that most people do not purchase wine to store it in their cellars. If waiting is not an option, another technique to consider is aeration.
By exposing your wine to air, you can expedite the breakdown of tannins within a matter of minutes.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that simply opening the bottle and letting it sit will not suffice. You must ensure that all the wine is exposed to the air. This can be achieved by either pouring out four glasses and allowing them to sit or by transferring the wine into a decanter, which not only exposes the entire volume of wine to air but also benefits from the wider base vessel that aids in further aeration.
Alternatively, you may choose to invest in a wine aerator. These devices can be attached directly to the bottle, facilitating exposure of the entire wine to air without the need for decanting.
3. Add some fat
In addition to aging and aerating, another option to consider is pairing your highly tannic wines with foods that contain fat.
Throughout history, wine and cheese have been combined for a reason. The presence of fat in nuts, meats, and cheeses helps counterbalance the dryness imparted by tannic wines. Consider serving your wine alongside a charcuterie board featuring a wide range of naturally fatty foods, such as prosciutto, goat cheese, olives, and almonds.
Ultimately, finding the best approach to soften the tannins in your wines may require some experimentation. However, it is worth noting that if you have a good quality wine, appreciating the drier side of red wines might simply be a matter of acquiring a taste for it.
If all else fails, you can gradually develop your tolerance by indulging in gourmet dark chocolate, which pairs well with many red wines.
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Tips for preventing excessive tannin levels in home-made wines
Here are some tips to help prevent excessive tannin levels in your homemade wines:
- Grape Selection: Choose grape varieties with naturally lower tannin levels. Research and select grape varieties that are known for producing wines with balanced tannins.
- Harvest Timing: Harvest the grapes at the optimal time to achieve the desired level of tannins. Grapes harvested earlier tend to have lower tannin levels compared to fully ripe grapes.
- Destemming and Crushing: When processing the grapes, consider destemming and crushing them to control the extraction of tannins. This allows you to separate the grape skins, seeds, and stems, which are the primary sources of tannins.
- Gentle Pressing: Apply gentle pressure during the pressing stage to minimize the extraction of tannins from the grape skins. This can help reduce the tannin levels in the resulting wine.
- Shorter Maceration Period: Limit the duration of the maceration period, which is the time during fermentation when the grape juice is in contact with the skins. Shorter maceration periods generally lead to lower tannin extraction.
- Fermentation Temperature: Monitor and control the fermentation temperature. Higher temperatures can result in increased tannin extraction, so keeping the temperature within the recommended range can help maintain balanced tannins.
- Blending: If you find that your homemade wine has excessive tannins, consider blending it with wines that have lower tannin levels. This can help balance out the overall tannin profile of the final product.
- Aging: During the aging process, tannins can soften and integrate better with the other components of the wine. Allow your wine to age for an appropriate period, as this can help mellow the tannins over time.
Remember that achieving the desired tannin levels in homemade wines requires experimentation and experience. Don’t be afraid to adjust your winemaking techniques and processes to find the right balance for your preferences.
FAQs about How to Soften Tannins in Wine
1. How can tannins in wine be neutralized?
Wines can be made more palatable by certain foods, particularly those with a high-fat content like blue cheese, which can balance the tannin in the beverage. By coating your mouth with cheese fat, tannin compounds are prevented from reacting with saliva and adhering to your teeth.
2. How long does it take tannins to become more pliable?
Allowing your red wine to breathe for about one to two hours will soften any harsh tannins and give the wine a more velvety texture if it is young and has chunky tannins. 30 minutes should be sufficient if your bottle is a lighter wine, less alcoholic, or has a less concentrated flavor.
3. What disintegrates tannins?
A wide variety of microorganisms, including rumen bacteria, contain tannase, a crucial enzyme in the breakdown of hydrolyzable tannins. The number of processes that use this enzyme is expanding.
4. What degree of heat do tannins deteriorate at?
According to TGA studies, tannins have a high thermal resistance. At 196.91°C, the decomposition begins, and the DTG is at 257.77°C.
5. Can tannins be removed by baking soda?
How to Get Tannin-Based Stains Out of Glassware
The baking soda will remove the tannin stains because it is a mild abrasive.
6. Do tannins deteriorate with time?
Leached and stained tannin will eventually disappear and wash away naturally.
7. Does wine aging make tannins softer?
A wine’s fruit will typically change as it ages, transitioning from fresh fruit to dried fruit flavors. Both the acidity and the tannins will mellow with time.
8. What occurs when too much tannin is added to wine?
This wine should taste bitter and dry-puckering if there is too much tannin in it. A tart and sharp flavor would be anticipated if tartaric acid was the cause. As you suggested, raising the temperature would probably cause some tannin to be lost if the wine does contain too much of it.
9. How can I tell if my wine contains a lot of tannins?
When taking your first sip, pay close attention to how the middle of your tongue feels about the wine. Your wine probably has a higher tannin variety if your mouth feels dry and your teeth feel parched.
10. Which foods don’t go well with high-tannin wines?
Fatty food. Oenologists must now take into account tannin-lipid interaction to determine the best pairing of excessively astringent red wines with fatty foods like cheese, meat, deli meats, or desserts, for example.
In conclusion, softening tannins in wine can be approached through various methods. Hopefully, this article has helped you answer the question: ”How to soften tannins in wine?”. With these tips in mind, wine enthusiasts can enhance their enjoyment and appreciation of the flavors and aromas that wine has to offer.
In 2014, Leo Colon began working with Big Cottonwood Winery. Over the years he has remained part of this prestigious winery’s team and is also a contributor to other notable wine publications. As an ardent advocate for knowledge, Leo continues his vinous education to this day.