What Are Tannins in Red Wine? - Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster | Orlando Fine Dining
  • Celebrating 30 years of legendary dining

What Are Tannins in Red Wine?

Learn how tannins can affect the taste and texture of a wine
Aug 28, 2023

There are many factors that can impact the taste of wine. You may have heard of tannins, which are typically associated with red wines in particular. But what are they and how do they affect a wine’s taste? It’s important to understand all aspects of a wine in order to choose which ones are best suited for you. Christner’s has a vast wine cellar with a wide range of different wines that you can try. While learning more about wine may enhance your enjoyment, you can always ask our in-house sommelier to help you choose the perfect wine.

What Is a Tannin?

A tannin is a polyphenol, which is a naturally-occurring chemical compound found in a variety of plants, including grapes used in wine-making. In grapes, tannins can be found in the stems, skin, and seeds. They play a role in the grapes’ defense against animals or insects that could harm the plant.

What Foods and Beverages Contain Tannins?

Because grapes aren’t the only plants that contain tannins, wine isn’t the only beverage that has them. There are other foods and beverages with tannins, including tea, coffee, nuts, and dark chocolate.

Where Do Tannins in Wine Come From?

In a red wine, the tannins can come from two places. The first is from the grapes used to make the wine. The second is from the wood in barrels if a wine is aged.

What Do Tannins Taste Like?

Tannins are what cause a red wine’s dryness, astringency, and bitterness. By contrast, a white wine may taste sweet, in part due to containing fewer tannins. Tannins also impact the feel and texture of a wine. This feel can range from smooth to grainy.

What Does It Mean if a Wine Is Tannic?

If a wine is described as tannic, this means that it has more tannins.

Which Wines Have More Tannins?

In general, the darker the wine, the more tannins the wine has. This is why only red wines tend to be tannic. In particular, the following wines tend to be the most tannic:

  • Cabernet sauvignon
  • Shiraz
  • Shyrah
  • Tannat
  • Tempranillo
  • Sangiovese

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Nebbiolo is a naturally highly tannic grape, but the wines produced from it tend to be a very pale color of red.

a bartender holding out a bottle of red wine next to an empty wine glass

Do White Wines Contain Tannins?

While red wines are more tannic, all wines do contain tannins. Even white wines contain some tannins, but just at a lower level than red wines.

a bottle of red wine next to a bottle of white wine at Christner's Steakhouse

Why Do Red Wines Contain More Tannins?

Red wines are more tannic for two primary reasons. The first is that the grapes used to make red wine tend to be naturally more tannic than grapes used to make white wine. The second is that in the wine production process, the juices are removed from the skins much sooner in white wines than in red wines. This means that red wines have more time to absorb tannins from the skins of the grapes than white wines do.

Orange wines and some rosés may not be made from grapes that contain a lot of tannins, but they are made with a similar process to that of red wine. The juices are fermented while they’re still in contact with the skins, increasing the tannins in the final product.

How Do Tannins Impact a Wine?

There are several ways in which the presence of tannins impacts a wine, including taste and texture.

a Christner's glass with red wine in it

What Is the Taste of a Tannic Wine?

Wines with more tannins are typically also less sweet. This means that a tannic wine can be drier and more bitter than a wine with fewer tannins. It’s for this reason that white wines tend to be sweeter than red wines.

What Is a Dry Wine?

If a wine is dry, all of the sugars present in the grapes have been converted to alcohol in the process of fermenting. Tannic wines tend to taste less sweet than those with fewer tannins.

What Is a Bitter Wine?

Bitterness in wine is a sharp, unsweet flavor that is also pungent. It can be rare to actually taste bitterness in a wine, depending on the strength of the fruit flavor.

What Is the Texture of a Tannic Wine?

While tannins play a major role in the texture of a wine, they’re not the only factor involved. This means that tannic wines can have a range of textures, ranging from firm or astringent to velvety, smooth, or silky.

What Is an Astringent Wine?

In wine, astringency is a sensory characteristic rather than a taste. It is associated with bitterness and acidity but refers not to the flavor but to the physical sensation of puckering.

How To Select a Wine

When you visit Christner’s, you’ll have a wide range of choices when it comes to wine. Our vast wine cellar offers so many options you’ll want to keep coming back to try them all. Don’t hesitate to ask our in-house sommelier for assistance in finding the perfect wine!