Tannins are naturally occurring plant polyphenols. Their main characteristic is that they bind and precipitate proteins. Tannins are responsible for the astringent feeling we experience when we partake red wine or eat unripe fruits. They are also responsible for red, blue and black pigments in red grapes, and for the colours seen in flowers and autumn leaves. Tannins are generally found in the bark, leaves and immature fruits of a wide range of plants.
Where are tannins found?
In wine, tannins come from the skin, seeds and stems of the grapes. Thick-skinned grapes, like Cabernet Sauvignon produce more tannic wines than thinner-skinned varietals like Pinot Noir. In general red grapes produce more tannins than white grapes and young red wines have more tannins, which usually mellow with age. Some wines like Hermitage Red Wines from Syrah Grape, are so tannic, they have to be aged for a minimum of ten years.
Tannin is also found in wood such as the French oak barrels in which some wines are aged or fermented or in strong black tea. White wines, aged in oak barrels have more tannins than un-oaked white wines.
Other foods rich in tannins are:
Fruits: pomegranates, some persimmons, most berries, such as cranberries, strawberries and blueberries;
Raw nuts: hazelnuts, walnuts and pecans;
Woods: mesquite, cherry, oak and other woods used in smoking;
Herbs and Spices: cloves, cumin, cinnamon, vanilla and herbs like tarragon and thyme;
Legumes: most legumes contain tannins especially the red coloured beans.
Chocolate: dark chocolate.
What does tannin taste like?
Tannin is described as astringent, but tannin is not a taste. It’s a tactile sensation. It causes a dry and puckery feeling in the mouth. If you want to experience tannins take a cup of very strong black tea and notice the sensation in your mouth. If you add milk to the tea, it will taste much better because the fat and proteins in milk soften the tannins.
If you take a highly tannic wine red wine with a milk product like cheese, it softens the wine and makes it more appealing. You can also serve beef in cream sauce with a highly tannic red wine, because beef and cream have fats and proteins that will mellow the tannin.
Examples of Highly Tannic wines: Syrah (Shiraz), Nebbiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon,
Examples of Less Tannic wines: Gamay, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Merlot,