What Do Tannins Taste Like? Exploring the Notes of Your Favorite Wines

Are you a fan of wine? Do you take pleasure in the wonderful aromas and flavors, but have trouble discerning what it is that sets different wines apart from each other? One important sensory element of any glass of vino is tannins. But what do tannins taste like?

In this blog post, we’ll be discussing exactly that – breaking down what they are and how they affect your experience with tasting wine so that next time you uncork a bottle, you can appreciate them in all their complexity!

1. What are tannins?

Tannins are a type of polyphenol, a chemical compound that occurs naturally in many plants. They are present in the skin, seeds, and stems of grapes and act as a defense mechanism against animals and insects.

Tannins can also be added to wines through wood barrels during the aging process.

Along with tea, dark chocolate, nuts, and coffee, tannins can be found in a variety of foods and beverages. They play a crucial role in the flavor and structure of the wine.

2. What do tannins do?

Plants produce tannins to discourage animals from consuming their fruit or seeds before they become mature. Tannins cause an unpleasant, dry sensation in your mouth when you eat unripe fruit like pears or plums.

People have utilized tannins from tree bark to tan hides and created leather for a long time.

When used appropriately, some foods with tannins, like tea, coffee, dark chocolate, and wine, are highly valued for their bitterness and astringent properties.

What do tannins do?
To make themselves unpleasant, plants produce tannins. (Source: Internet)


3. What do tannins taste like?

To experience the natural taste of tannins, try biting into an unripened pear or drinking plain black tea. However, tannins in wine can be more complex and varied, especially in aged wines.

In simple words, tannins contribute to the bitter and puckering taste of wine. This is more noticeable in young wines, which can feel rough on the tongue and cause dryness in the mouth. 

Sometimes, the taste can be very strong and astringent, often referred to as “green.”

Aged wines contain tannins that can create a smooth mouthfeel and add new flavors like vanilla, fruit, and spices.

However, people have different preferences – some enjoy strong tannin flavors while others do not.

What do tannins taste like?
Try biting into an unripened pear or sipping plain black tea to experience the taste of tannins in their natural state. (Source: Internet)

Editor’s note: The texture and feel of tannins are more prominent than their specific flavor. 

When tannins are intense, they can cause a temporary puckering or drying sensation, which may feel similar to eating an unripe fruit or drinking strong black tea. 

The texture and mouthfeel of tannins can range from soft and silky to aggressive and grainy.

Need an example? You can try putting a wet tea bag on your tongue, as 50% of the dry weight of plant leaves is made up of pure tannin.

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4. How do tannins impact the texture or sensation in the mouth when drinking wine?

Red wines’ structure and body are also influenced by tannins, which produce a viscosity or mouthfeel by interacting with mouth proteins. 

Tannins have an astringent taste because they tend to bind with saliva proteins, which causes these proteins to precipitate, resulting in a dry, puckering sensation on the tongue.

Some people like the way tannic wines feel in their mouth, while others think it is too rough. 

Typically, older wines are less tannic than younger ones because the tannins have had more time to become softer and smoother over time.

5. Where do tannins come from?

There are four main sources of tannins in wine: grape skins, seeds, stems, and wooden barrels. Tannins contribute to the texture and mouthfeel of wine and also give it a sense of weight and structure.

Red wine is made from the whole grape, including the skins, pips, juice, and sometimes stems. During fermentation, color and tannins are extracted from these parts of the grape, which create the characteristic drying sensation in your mouth when drinking red wine.

In contrast, white wine is mainly made from the juice that is pressed from the grapes upon arrival at the winery.

6. So, are tannins good?

You may have heard that drinking wine in moderation can have health benefits because of its tannins. 

Wine tannins contain antioxidants that protect your cells from free radicals which can lead to health problems like cancer and heart disease.

Studies have shown that although tea and wine both contain tannins, wine tannins act as antioxidants and resist oxidation, while tea tannins do not.

According to research, tannins can strengthen the immune system by eliminating fungi, yeasts, bacteria, and viruses.

7. Do tannins in wine have any negative effects on your health?

Although tannins offer health benefits when consumed in reasonable amounts, they may trigger headaches in certain individuals by releasing serotonin, which can cause a headache in some people despite bringing happiness to others.

However, making high-quality wine can substantially decrease the negative effects of tannins and avoid causing headaches.

8. How to identify a wine with high tannin content

High tannin wines are often dark in color, and have a dry and bitter taste on the palate. If red wines have been aged for long periods, they may also contain muted flavors like leather or tobacco.

When you take your first sip of wine, focus on how it feels in the middle of your tongue. If you feel dryness on your teeth and tongue, the wine likely has a higher level of tannins.

9. Are there some wines that do not have tannins?

Are there some wines that do not have tannins?
Because of the grapes used, all wines contain tannins. (Source: Internet)

All wines contain tannins because of the grapes used, but the amount can differ based on the wine type and winemaking process. 

Red wines have the most tannins because they are fermented with skins, seeds, and stems. White wines, with mostly or completely removed skins, have lower tannin levels.

When white wines are aged, their flavor develops using acid and sugar levels rather than tannins.

Rosé wine contains a moderate amount of tannins, between red and white wine.

Sparkling wines have the least amount of tannins of all wine types because they aim for minimal contact with skin and oak.

For those with tannin sensitivity, it is recommended to only consume white wines that are not aged in oak barrels, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Pinot Grigio.

10. Food Pairings to Enhance Wines with High Tannin Content

High-tannin wine is a great complement to rich, fatty foods due to its intensity and astringency.

A fat-marbled steak, for instance, can be beautifully cut by the dryness of tannin wine.

The tannin molecules in the wine attach to the proteins and other organic compounds of the meat which enhances the flavors of both the food and wine.

More Fun Facts About Tannins

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, here are some fun facts about tannins:

  • Fruits that are not yet ripe contain a high amount of tannins, which helps prevent animals from eating them until the seeds are fully developed and ready to be spread. As the fruit ripens, the tannin content decreases.
  • In addition to fruits, tannins are found in coffee, tea, red wine, and beer. The initial dry sensation that you feel while sipping red wine comes from the tannins present in the oak wood of the barrels in which the wine was stored for aging.
  • Tannins contribute to the beautiful colors found in flowers and the striking appearance of autumn leaves.

Tannins have a significant impact on medicine and human health because they are astringents that constrict pores and extract liquids. 

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), which is a natural source of tannin, is widely used in various skincare products.

You can still buy witch hazel in bottles at certain drug stores, even though it’s not as commonly used now. Witch hazel has been effective in treating bee stings, skin abrasions, and poison oak and ivy. 

Moreover, witch hazel tannins are utilized to create mouthwashes, eyewashes, and for some bowel conditions.

Medical research has proven that the tannins in cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) can reduce the ability of E. coli bacteria to stick to the urinary tract lining, which helps prevent urinary tract infections in women. 

The same anti-adhesive property may also help reduce the likelihood of stomach ulcers caused by H. pylori. Additionally, recent studies suggest that these compounds can lower LDL cholesterol levels and benefit heart health.

11. FAQs

1. Why do people like tannins?

Some people enjoy the bitter and astringent taste of tannins, which can create an interesting flavor complexity when balanced properly. 

Aged wines are often treasured for their tannins as they produce a smoother mouthfeel and provide new aromas and flavors.

2. What foods pair well with high-tannin-content wines?

High-tannin wine pairs well with fatty foods, such as steak and pork. The tannins in the wine attach to proteins and other organic compounds of the meat which enhances the flavors of both the food and wine.

3. Can a high-tannin content wine give me a headache?

Although tannins offer health benefits when consumed in reasonable amounts, they may trigger headaches in certain individuals by releasing serotonin, which can cause a headache in some people.

However, making high-quality wine can substantially decrease the negative effects of tannins and avoid causing headaches.

4. What does high-tannin wine taste like?

High-tannin wine has a bitter taste which you can feel on the front inside of your mouth and along the side of your tongue. High-tannin wine causes your tongue to dry out. Even after you swallow, you will continue to feel the bitter and dry sensation in your mouth.

5. What is the process for neutralizing tannins in wine?

Blue cheese and other high-fat foods can make drinking wine easier by counteracting its tannins. This is because the fat in the food coats the mouth and prevents the tannin compounds from reacting with saliva and sticking to the teeth.

6. Can tannins cause a hangover?

No, tannins do not give you a hangover. They work against hangovers. Red wine tannins make you thirsty, unlike white wine and beer, which aids in the recommended wine-water waltz.

But drinking too much of any alcoholic beverage can cause dehydration and other symptoms that can lead to a hangover.

So, it is important to drink in moderation and make sure to stay hydrated while consuming alcohol to reduce the chances of having a hangover the next day.

7. Can tannins in wine be eliminated by decanting?

Decanting wine can enhance its flavor and aroma by exposing it to oxygen and allowing some volatile substances to evaporate. This process can also help to soften the tannins that make young wines taste harsh and astringent.

8. What are the benefits of tannins?

Tannins can be classified into various categories based on their properties such as antioxidants which can help decrease total cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and boost the immune system.

Additionally, tannins possess antibacterial properties that can aid in fighting dental decay.

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