Le tanin : élément indispensable du vin rouge !

Tannin: an essential element of red wine!

An essential compound, yet little known to wine lovers, tannin is essential for red wine. The keystone of great wines, it is what influences the aging, flavor and texture of the wine. Let's dive into the world of tannins and discover their essential role in red wine.

What is tannin in red wine?

Tannins are polyphenols naturally present in wine , and more particularly in red wine. They are what give this feeling of dryness in the mouth. The astringency of tannins is truly characteristic of red wines, but these antioxidant compounds also allow better preservation of the wine. Finally, tannins also influence the color and flavors of the wine.

Tannin: better understanding the making of red wine

To understand how tannins play a role in the structure of red wine, it is above all interesting to know the winemaking method used by winemakers.

From vineyard to bottling: the stages of making red wines

Broadly speaking, the vinification of red wines takes place in 6 main stages.

  • Harvest : the grape berries are harvested when ripe, by hand or mechanically. The degree of maturity varies depending on the wine-growing regions. The Terres de Berne red, for example, is an AOP Côtes de Provence red wine whose cool nights and warm days allow the grapes to ripen slowly. The late harvests then offer an expressive and fresh wine;
  • Sorting : each bunch of grapes is then sorted on a sorting table, to keep only the best;
  • Destemming or destemming : here we remove the stems of the bunches of grapes (the stem), as well as all the green parts;
  • Crushing : the berries are then crushed, taking care not to crush the grape seeds;
  • Maceration and fermentation : the must, composed of grape juice, pulp, grape skins and seeds) is placed in a fermentation tank. Yeasts are added to help the transformation of sugar into alcohol;
  • Bottling .

Fermentation in detail

Of course, making red is not that simple, and other steps come into play during fermentation.

  • Racking : after alcoholic fermentation, the juice from the tank is transferred from below into another container. The solid parts (marc) are then separated from the juice, we then speak of “ free run wine ”;
  • Pressing : the recovered marc (skin and grape seeds) is then pressed to recover the wine in which it was soaked. The resulting wine is called “ press wine ”. It is a very colorful red wine with powerful tannins;
  • Barrel aging : the wine is aged for several seasons in a barrel or vat. The oak barrel is an interesting choice to intensify the action of the tannins and obtain a wine marked by the taste of wood. This is the case, for example, of the Grande Cuvée du Château de Berne, an AOP Côtes de Provence aged in barrels for 12 months;
  • Blending : to balance the aromas and tannic structure of red wines, the winemaker can blend several vintages from different varieties of grapes or from different plots.

Where do the tannins in wine come from?

THE tannins present in wine come from 4 different elements:

  • The skin of the grapes : depending on the variety of grape and the thickness of the skin, the quantity of tannins is more or less high;
  • Grape seeds : when you press a grape seed, an oily material comes out. This compound contains tannins, which you can feel when you bite into it;
  • The stem of the grape berry : the vegetable part of the fruit also contains tannins. It is for this reason that some winegrowers do not carry out destemming before alcoholic fermentation;
  • The wood of oak barrels : the wood of oak barrels also contains tannins. This is why the aging of great wines is done in these types of oak barrels.

Good to know: white grapes also contain tannins, but in lower quantities. White wines therefore also contain a little tannins.

How to describe the tannins of a wine?

During a wine tasting, the tannin analysis is done during the taste examination stage. Tannins can then be described in different ways.

  • Hard, rough or astringent tannins : coarse tannins can sometimes unbalance the wine. Tannic wines then become rough in the mouth;
  • Firm tannins : antioxidant compounds are very present, without providing an overly marked astringent sensation;
  • Soft tannins : the red wine is perfectly balanced, offering both fruity aromas and a nice rough sensation in the mouth;
  • Soft tannins : the chemical compound is not very present, the red wine is then rather round and subtly soft;
  • The silky tannins : the red wine is very light here;
  • Melted tannins : the presence of tannins goes completely unnoticed.

Depending on the tannin levels , red wines take on totally different characteristics. It is then up to the winegrowers to find the perfect balance to obtain a tasty vintage.


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