Girl: This wine is really bitter! I do not like the astringent taste!
Guy: I think it has just the right level of tannin and good structure! And the oakiness is great!
Very often, wine transfers a trace of bitterness and astringency that will leave a tingling sensation on the tongue. This feeling might be hard for beginners in wine tasting to describe but this is probably what we call ‘tannin’.
The impression tannin makes on the taste buds is very distinctive; however, it is said to resemble the taste of biting on grape seeds.
Since tannin gives such an awkward sensation, why do people see high tannin as one of the main characteristics of a good wine?
Tannin is a natural occurring polyphenol that is present in grape skins, seeds, stems, and will increase if an oak barrel is used during fermentation. Tannin is what gives wine its structure, texture, body and complexity in mouthfeel. In addition, it is a natural source of antioxidants and boosts long-term aging.
Having long term aging in mind, French vintage wines have a longer maceration time to maximize tannin extraction. During the storage phase, the wine’s body will be affected by the age of the oak barrel, which can increase tannin level to intensify the wine’s complexity.
With cheaper wines, the destemming might not be done thoroughly and crushed seeds and stems are often included in the juice due to excessive pressing, causing an unwanted amount of coarse tannin in the wine.
Remember, both good and bad wines have a significant level of tannin, but good wines have structure and texture. As a wine ages, the tannin within will slowly mature and the taste will transform from astringent to smooth. For example, if you uncork a bottle of Marguax Grand Cru Classe wine produced three years ago, it’s definitely too early because the wine will be overly oaky and astringent but still being voluptuous with a sweet taste.
As for low-end wines, they usually contain too much tannin and taste like a combination of utter bitterness and too much alcohol content, which most ladies will find hard on the tongue. And no matter how long these wines age, the taste and aroma will not improve. As for wines without enough tannin, they will have a weak structure and body.
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