They're dry, but you can drink them.
I'm often given a look of astonishment during wine tastings with novice wine-lovers when tasting a really dry red wine. As they sip their faces go blank, then pull away from the glass as if they'd just bitten into a sour grape. At this point I'm ready to explain to them that what they just experienced was the dry bite of tannins.
Tannins are found in all wines, but are most noticeable in red wines. We'll get to why shortly.
The easiest way to explain tannins in wine is to taste a dry red wine, specifically a Cabernet Sauvignon as an example. That dry sensation you feel after sipping the wine which is most noticeable on the middle of the palate making your tongue want to almost stick to the top of your mouth. That is caused by tannins.
Tannins are found in grapes and the wood from oak barrels. Red wine tannins are much more noticeable than white wine tannins because red wine spends more time with the skins to extract that lovely red color we so enjoy. Tannins are found in grape skins, seeds and stalks, as well as from the wood in wine barrels. They give a wine bitterness and astringency (a bite), and also contribute towards the age worthiness of a wine.
Part of the reason why we aim to age a wine for a few years is partly to allow the wine to develop over time, as well as to allow the tannins to settle. Tannins settle over time by almost linking together, offering structure to the wine, but smoothing out as they integrate with the fruit in the wine.
If you're still not 100% certain as to what I'm talking about, make yourself a cup of Five Roses tea, but don't put milk or sugar in the cup. Now have a sip. That dry texture to the tea is exactly what we call tannins.
So next time you take a sip of wine from a newly opened bottle and you come across that dry mouthfeel, you now understand where it comes from. If you have a few more bottles of that same wine, leave them for another year or so and enjoy a smoother sipping experience with the next bottle ...
|High Tannin Grape Varietals
||Low Tannin Grape Varietals
*Suggestion: If you're getting into your red wines go for a lower tannin grape varietal wine before moving onto the bolder tannin varietals.
Want to taste what I'm talking about above? Try Arco Laarman's Cluster Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
... or for a delicate red wine with easy-going, supple tannins I'd highly recommend the Highlands Road Pinot Noir 2014
... click on the links to order for delivery to your home.