Big tannin is not always better

Tannin can be stubborn, and not all wines soften with age. (Photo: SIRI STAFFORD/GETTY IMAGES)

While I adore red wine, I sometimes find that I like the mid-priced wines in a range more than the most expensive wines.

Next time you are at a wine tasting, pay as much attention to the tannin as you do to the aroma, fruit intensity and overall balance.

There is still a belief by many wine producers, and consumers, that big equals better. But wildly intense fruit, high alcohol, noticeable oak and big tannin does not always result in the most captivating of wines with age.

The argument that the elements come together with time is not always correct. Too often the high alcohol, which stuck out when a wine was young, continues to dominate the wine throughout its life. As can the tannin.

Tannin can be stubborn, and not all wines soften with age. In fact, grippy tannin can hang around in a wine long after the fruit has faded.

Eating protein while drinking a big red can certainly mop up the tannin. But if you are enjoying a glass of red on its own, pokey tannin can be as distracting as overt oak or a glaring fault.

So, the next time you are at a wine tasting, pay as much attention to the tannin as you do to the aroma, fruit intensity and overall balance. Give yourself ample time between wines, as astringency can be cumulative.

Really think about the impact of the tannin. Is it ripe and papery? Or is it grippy and aggressive? Large amounts of fine tannin are probably better for ageing than a fleeting grip on the back palate. I always like tannins that build from the mid-palate, where they contribute to the shape of the wine, not just the finish.

As always, to really understand the elements in a wine, it is good to look at wines side-by-side. Pay particular attention to the tannin. Think about their impact on your palate and build up your own vocabulary to describe them. For a wine to age gracefully well into the future, there must, of course, be a balance between the fruit, the acidity and the oak. But don’t forget to also think about the tannin.

2 thoughts on “Big tannin is not always better”

  1. Larry says:

    I sort of agree with this but with few examples to mind. I totally agree with the comment about green tannins, I find most Australian/NZ wines lack tannins. Which is probably why I am drinking more and more Italian wine.

  2. Andrew Smith says:

    wonderful article.
    tannins aint tannins!..tannin also comes from many sources..grapes, barrels, seeds and skins or even out of a packet (chestnut tannin anyone!)
    Ripe tannins from “Noble” varieties are soft and rich, as opposed to immature tannins from lesser varieties or earlier picked fruit.
    ie Green tannin.
    Its generally regarded that unripe tannin is perceived as more bitter on the palate, which may have been part of why wines needed ageing.
    tannins are highly reactive and form chains of long tannins that are less bitter .
    Tannin also adds to the mouthfeel and viscosity of red wine.
    (which are going to be the watchwords for the 2020’s)
    So yes!!!!
    Think about the tannins.
    How much, where do the come from, where are they going, and are they enjoyable!

    Nice work!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *