A common question when playing Blinders among beginners is, “What are tannins?” Firstly, most of the wines that have a presence of tannins are going to be red wines.
Think of tannins as something you feel in your mouth, rather than something you’ll taste. It’s that gritty, dry feeling you get once you’ve had a sip of your wine; your teeth stick to your gums and the roof of your mouth feels fuzzy and dry. If you experience all of these things at a pretty high level, then you’re drinking a wine that’s high in tannins. If you experience it just a little, then it’s a wine that’s low in tannins.
You’ll experience the same feeling if you’ve brewed a cup of black tea for too long, or the weird feeling of the skins on some nuts, pecans in particular.
The presence of the tannins depends a lot on how thick the grape skins are, and then how long the skin, seeds and stems stay within the grape juice. A pinot noir is going to be lower in tannins because it’s quite a thin skinned grape, while a cabernet sauvignon or a bordeaux are going to be quite high in tannins, as they have thicker skins.
Tannins also help red wine age. The older the wine gets, the more the tannins fall out of it, creating the sediment you’ll find at the bottom of an old bottle. Enjoy a segment of the episode of The Sommelier’s Notebook below, only available at www.sommtv.com.