Wine jargon can seem like a foreign language. “Would Madam like a glass of the 2008 vintage Shiraz, an excellent example of the terroir with heavy tannins and a lovely nose?”
Firstly, people who talk like this are usually doing it to show-off. But it can be useful to know what some key phrases mean, either to understand what people are getting at, or to be able to show-off yourself …
So, in that spirit: tannins. I’m guilty of talking about tannins in some of my posts, because they are fundamental to your experience of drinking a lot of wines (especially reds).
All wines, both white and red have tannins. But usually we only talk about them in red wines, as the tannin level in white wines is much lower.
Tannins make the wine taste dry – imagine cotton wool in your mouth, or the taste and experience of stewed tea.
They come from either the grape skin, or oak barrels, or both. Because red wines are fermented with the skins, this automatically leads to more tannins. Wines with a high tannin content often improve over time, with the tannins becoming softer and the wine tasting smoother. This is a good tip if you want to buy wine to lay down – high tannins = good preservatives and a wine that you can drink at an older age.
If you want to try a red wine that is likely to have a high tannin content, go for something like a Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon or Tempranillo. For a lighter wine with a lower tannin content, Pinot Noir or Merlot are good ideas. Happy drinking!