Tannins—What Do Tannins Do?

If you’ve ever been to a wine tasting event, you’ve probably heard wine (usually red wine) described as “tannic.” You may even hear health professionals discussing wine tannins.

While the dictionary of words you can use to describe wine is relatively large, “wine tannins” or “tannic” are perhaps the most important words to know.

Here’s an overview of what tannins in wine are, how they affect you, and their side effects.

What Are Tannins in Wine

If you drink red wine, you’re probably familiar with a dry sensation and a lasting bitterness. The tannins in the wine are responsible for this sensation.

Scientifically, tannins are natural polyphenols found in various plants, bark, and fruit skins. Therefore, it’s the fruit skins that often give the wine its tannic characteristics.

The ratio of tannins to acidity (along with a few other factors like alcohol concentration and glycerol) defines the structure of a wine. Therefore, a wine typically described as “structured” has excellent balance and will age well.

While tannic wines may seem bitter at first, many people grow to love them.

Which Wines Have High Tannins

All wines have tannins, though red wines typically have higher tannins.

This is because tannins are usually found in a grape’s skin, seeds, stems, and oak and other additives. However, red wines are typically more tannic as they undergo a process called maceration.

During maceration, winemakers use the grape skins in the wine to give it the red color. Though because the grape skin is high in tannins, another side effect is that the wine becomes tannic.

However, white wines are pressed rather than macerated, so most of the tannins from the grape skin are unused.

Are Tannins Good for You?

You’ve also probably heard that some wine (when consumed in moderation) is healthy. The tannins are responsible for these health benefits. Specifically, wine tannins contain antioxidants that help protect your cells against free radicals. If your body has too many free radicals, they can cause cancer, heart disease, and other health issues.

While tea also has tannins, studies show that tea tannins do not resist oxidation, whereas wine tannins resist oxidation. In other words, wine tannins are antioxidants while tea tannins are not.

Research also shows that tannins can strengthen your immune system as they can kill fungi, yeasts, bacteria, and viruses.

Are Tannins in Wine Bad for You?

While tannins are excellent for your health when consumed in moderation, they can also induce headaches in some people. This is because they release serotonin, and while this makes some people happy, it can also give some people a headache.

However, high quality winemaking can significantly reduce the side effects of tannins and prevent headaches.

Try a Tannic Wine

Next time you’re tasting wines, pay attention to the bitterness of the wine and how it shapes the experience. While you may take some time to become accustomed to it, many people grow to love tannic wines. Tannic wines will be your new favorite paired with red meat or a buttery side dish. Browse our collection of red wines here or contact us for a recommendation.