What is tannin in wine?

on February 1, 2010

Q. There’s always a lot of talk about tannin in wine but nobody ever bothers to explain what it is!

A. Guilty as charged – I only hope this tardy explanation might win me some leniency!

Surely you’ve noticed the sharp, mouth-drying, puckery sensation that blankets your mouth after drinking very strong black tea or some red wines? That’s tannin, a naturally occurring chemical that shows up in the skins and seeds of red wine grapes and in oak barrels. When tannins aren’t overpowering, they add to wine’s enjoyment. But sometimes they can be harsh – especially in powerful, young wines.

Luckily, tannins mellow as they age. But you might not be able to wait that long. If not, decant the wine into another container, splashing as you pour. Air contact at least partially softens young wine’s sharp edges.

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