Strey Cellars

Tannins Shenanigans

Tannins Shenanigans

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Wine is one of those subjects that opens us to endless conversation. You don’t need to know much about wine to love it, but often, the more you love it, the more you want to know. The love affair with wine mimics falling in love, you want to know every little thing about the person, and spend as much time with them as possible. You remember special moments and dates, and certain scents and colors bring you right back as if it were yesterday. Love evolves, the beginning is new and exciting, and over time the butterflies don’t erupt in your belly quite as often, what used to be your favorite thing about someone, might feel a little dull or boring, and you begin to wonder what happened. Where did that feeling go? That’s when it’s time to spice it up, and try something new. 

If you speak with someone who has loved wine for a long time, they’ll tell you that their tastes evolved over time. Personally, I first fell for sweet wines like Moscato and Gewurtztraminer. A lot of people start with white, sweet wine that is not tannic. The reason for this is because tannins taste bitter and astringent. Think of the taste of unsweetened black tea, in fact, a wet tea bag is pure tannin.  When people come into the tasting room who do not drink much wine, or prefer whites, I often will recommend a (red) Zinfandel because it’s jammy, gives you the illusion of sweetness, and fills your mouth, making it water. While yes, it has tannins, it’s tannins are lower than say, Cabernet Franc. If you were to taste the two side by side, you’d notice that the Cab Franc dries out the front of your mouth a little, and the middle of your tongue. Kind of like dark chocolate, which also has high tannins. Tannins molecules in wine are attracted to the protein in saliva, so it’s not that the tannins themselves are drying, but the saliva is bound up by tannin molecules so it cannot lubricate your palate, then your mouth tissues rub together causing your palate to feel dry.  Tannins are naturally occurring in the grape skins, seeds and the barrels, but not all wines will have as many tannins. 

I find it rare that someone new to wine prefers the more tannic varietals. Usually newbies prefer that big fruity mouthfeel over the slight bitterness… But just you wait, over time, as their tastebuds acclimate to wine, they soon find that they can lean more towards a dry red, particularly while pairing their wine with certain foods. The tannins actually prep your mouth for your next bite! There have even been studies that suggest that tannins are actually good for your health, as they are high in antioxidants! Your relationship with wine, is an expansion, eventually you begin to crave new tastes. You may grow out of your love for fruitier wines, or as with having a second child, your heart and taste buds may grow, opening you to the multifaceted world of wine.