Tannins in wine: what and what they are and what they are used for

The tannins in wine are naturally present and are responsible for that feeling of dehydration that is created in the mouth, also called astringency. Contained in the stalks, in the peel and in the seeds, tannins are natural chemical compounds. The best quality ones are present in the skin of the berries, and during the maceration they are released into the wine. There are wines that are more tannic than others, and based on this characteristic it is possible to make different combinations with food.

Tannins in wine: what they are, origin and description

What are tannins in wine? They are a natural component of wine, present in:

  • peels;
  • grape seeds, or the seeds contained in the grape;
  • stalk, wooden component of the bunch.

They belong to the family of polyphenols, and are therefore natural chemical compounds, naturally present in a variety of plants and their components, such as wood, bark, leaves, fruits and roots.

To better understand what they are and what influence they have on wine, just think of the sensation of astringency that is felt in the mouth when drinking certain types of wine. This is because, once in the palate, they bind with saliva proteins and cause that astringent sensation. Depending on the type of wine, tannins can also contribute to the conferment of bitter notes. The tannins give this astringent effect and the bitter taste mainly, but not exclusively, to red wines.

What are tannins for

The quality of a wine lies in the balance between soft and hard sensations, so it is easy to understand what tannins are used for in wine.
The hard sensations are given by the tannins together with the acids, while the soft notes come from sugars and alcohol. The addition of these elements in wine, extracted from the wood of particular trees or plants, does not only concern red wines, but also white and passito wines.

The polymerization of tannins in wine produces effects in the appearance of the wine, but also in the taste. From the organoleptic point of view, the effects of the tannins in the wine are perceived in the mouth with a taste with a bitter tendency. A further important function performed by tannins is that of natural preservative of the wine, as well as having an influence on its color, due to the maceration of the must in contact with the grape skins.

Tannini nel vino

Wine tannins are present in greater quantities in red wines, but also in lower quantities in sweet wines such as the Recioto della Valpolicella Classico, and in even lower portions in white wines. The ability that these compounds have to bind with proteins is useful on how to choose wine in food and wine pairing. Highly protein foods, such as meat, are balanced by the tannins present in red wines.

Tannins in white wine

Tannins in white wine are present in small quantities, and this for two reasons:

  • the concentration is mostly present in nature in red berried grapes;
  • the extraction takes place during the maceration of the fermenting must on the skins. In the vinification process of white wines, however, the
  • skins are removed from the must before the fermentation phase.

Orange wines, or orange wines, are practically the only wines obtained from white berried grapes, in which tannin is present.
Their name derives from the long maceration of the skins, which give the wine yellow and orange tones, as well as a well perceptible tannicity.

Tannins in red wine

The tannins in red wine are very present, as they are extracted during fermentation with the maceration process. In Italy, the tannic red wines include Nebbiolo-based wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco, but also the Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Brunello di Montalcino. The wines with less tannins are, on the other hand, Pinot Nero and Barbera.

Tannins in wine: strength, maturity and texture

When it comes to wine tasting: the art of wine in a glass, we cannot forget that every food has a sensory spectrum consisting of sweetness, flavor, softness, tannin and acidity. The tannins can, in fact, give the wine characteristics based on their different strength, maturity and texture. The strength gives the wine the degree of astringency, making them soft, marked, persuasive or angular. The maturity affects the greater or lesser evolution of the wine, while the texture gives more or less mellowness and roundness to the wine.

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