How do tannins affect the flavour of wine?

Some types of red wine make your mouth feel ‘dry’ when you drink them. New research into why this happens finds out why tannins affect the flavour of different wine types.

The character and quantity of red wine tannins are often affected by different factors. These include how thick the grape skin is, the climate of the growing season and how the wine is cellar stored.


Different wine types affected by tannins

Researchers have published their findings in the latest issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry regarding the effect of tannins. They show that the tannins in Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, are more numerous, contain more pigment and are physically larger than the tannins in Pinot Noir.

They experimented by extracting tannins from a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon and discovered that tannins from Cabernet form more protein in saliva. This backs up previous research that shows wine can cause a dry mouth sensation when proteins in tannins and saliva interact.


What are wine tannins?

Tannin is a polyphenol that appears naturally in plants, wood, leaves, seeds, bark and, of course, fruit skins. In wine, tannins add astringency, bitterness and complexity of flavours.

Wine tannins are usually present in red wines however it is possible for tannins to be present in white wines if they are oak aged. Tannin is dry and tasted in the front part of the mouth as well as the middle of the tongue. An easy example to try of pure tannin is in unsweetened black tea.

Tannins in wine come from either the grapes or the wood of the barrels it’s aged or stored in. Grape tannins are in the stems, skins and seeds of the grape, and as red wines have more contact with the skin there is more time for tannins to dissolve in the liquid. On the other hand, wood tannins dissolve in wine if they are in contact with the liquid.

Examples of red wines that are high in tannins include Petite Sirah, Monastrell, Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon. Lower tannin wines include Zinfandel, Grenache and Pinot Noir, which is why the researchers used Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir to discover more about tannins.


Different factors affect wine taste

The researchers also found that tannins don’t make these changes happen on their own. Other factors within wine affect the tannins and how they affect the flavour and taste of the wine.

In the article, the team of researchers say: “When the opposite type of tannin was put into Cabernet or Pinot wines, the sensory panellists could not detect differences in dryness. For example, when Cabernet tannins were added to a Pinot wine, the drink appeared to have the same dryness as the original Pinot.”

They also point out that aromas from the wines would also have influenced the test panellists’ perception of the flavour of the wine.


Delicious Greek wines ideal for summer time

While some wine lovers like to match their bottle with food, others like to match with the season. As we transition into summer, it’s time to seek out some wines to enjoy in the warmer weather. And one way is to turn to regions that are used to basking in the sun.

Greek wines might not be your first choice for a summer tipple, but there is something about the tastes of the Aegean that are ideal for hot weather.


Greek wines for summer

Early spring is when we can see summer just over the hill, and the warmer weather is an ideal match with Greek wines, particularly white. Wines like Avantis Estate White, Evia, Greece 2018, for example, are packed with flavours and hints of summer.

Most Greek whites share the same aromatic breeziness, with hints of thyme, orange blossom, lemon and honeysuckle that will transport you to a Greek taverna in the Mediterranean sunshine, This particular wine does all of this and more, thanks to its blend of Muscat, assyrtiko and viognier grapes from the Greek island of Evia, lending the wine a fragrant, lemony stone-fruit flavour. Serve it with an al fresco dinner of feta, olive and lemony dressed salad and you’ll feel the warmth of the Greek sun, even in England!


International wines using Greek grapes

Assyrtiko is a grape that has become popular with wine makers in other countries too. For example, there is a tensile version of the Greek grape in the Clare Valley in Australia. Back in Greece, Santorini is home to some delicious examples, inlcuding Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko 2018, Atlantis Santorini 2017 and Gaia Estate Wild Ferment Assyrtiko 2017, which is very like Chablis.

While whites seem perfect for summer, Greek red wines are also worth including on your shopping list. Local Greek grape varieties make standout wines, with xinomavro being used to make Thymiopoulos Jeunes Vignes Xinomavro 2017 in Naoussa. This tastes of a mix of warm herbs and slightly tangy red berries. It calls to mind Languedoc and Burgundy but with its very own Greek feel.

You can also find some lovely wines that use Greek grapes in their mix. For example, Skouras Synoro mixes aghiorghitko, merlot and cabernet franc for a delicate and fine Greek claret. It’s very food friendly, so not only is it a good match for any time of the year, it’s perfect with a rich lamb dish flavoured with rosemary and garlic.

The best South African wines available in the UK

There are so many excellent South African wines to choose from. Whether you prefer a deep, dark Shiraz or a chilled Sauvignon Blanc, you should make sure you try plenty from the wide range available.

South African wines have been made since the 17th century, but it took rather longer for the rest of the world to catch up. Today, there is plenty of interest in South Africa’s extremely impressive variety of wines, which means lots of different wines to choose from.


Which South African wines are the best?

Many South African wines hail from the coast and come with the crisp acidity a sea breeze brings to grapes. The coastal areas also boast sauvignon blancs that more than measure up to New Zealand’s versions.

Elsewhere in South Africa, you’ll find rich, fruity shiraz and merlot. Bruce Jack Shiraz 2018 is a good example of a decent South Africa red wine. It has very plummy and rich flavours and is made by a winemaker who prides himself on producing “little bottles of joy”. Expect to taste hints of dark fruits, chocolate and some spiciness.

For a crisp white try Leaf Plucker 2018 from winemaker Thys Louw. Apparently named after the sheep that munch his vines every morning, this sauvignon blanc is everything you want from a sauv blanc. It’s fruity, crisp and zingy, with the always popular notes of gooseberry that you expect from sauvignon blanc.


Other wines from South Africa

If you want a sweet, richly flavoured dessert wine, go for something like Rustenburg Straw Wine 2017. It’s called ‘straw wine’ because of the drying process used in its manufacture. The grapes are placed on straw to dry naturally. As the straw soaks up the grape juice, the fruit doesn’t rot. The wine is then further aged in barrels to produce this richly flavoured dessert wine. It’s delicious with puddings, desserts or blue cheeses.

A celebratory fizz that will please everyone, the Pongracz Brut Sparkling Wine Method Cap Classique is a great choice. It’s made, as the name suggests, in the classic French champagne style with a 60/40 split between chardonnay and pinot noir grapes. This sparkling wine is award-winning and hails from the Stellenbosch region. It’s a delicious blend of fruity and crisp apple flavours that make idea for any celebration or special meal.

For an organic wine, try Waterkloof Circumstance Syrah. This is made at a vineyard that is family-owned, biodynamic and organic. The winery is also a WWF Biodiversity Champion farm and can be found on the edge of the wine producing region of Stellenbosch. This wine is packed with flavour and character with plenty of dark berry flavours. It goes well wit all kinds of meaty or flavourful dishes.

Another organic choice is Stella Organics No Sulphur Added Fair Trade Merlot 2017. As its label spells out, this red is organic, certified Fair Trade and has no sulphites added. It’s vegan and rammed with red berry, plum and cherry flavours. It would go very well with a hearty veggie or vegan pasta dish.


Which Italian red wine is ideal for a special occasion?

Italian red wine is familiar territory for wine aficionados. Most wine lovers know the big names like Amarone and chianti, for example. But if you thought Italian reds were all Brunello and Barolos, you might be surprised to find out that there are loads more varieties to try.

From the wines made from the barbera grape in Piedmont, to the dark, perfumed wines from Puglia in southern Italy, there lots to sample. And they’re all perfect for special occasions or simple spring time dinner parties.

Italian red wine from the Langhe region

Vineyards have been producing luscious red wines from among the hills of the Langhe region in Piedmont for centuries. This region of Italy sits at the foot of the Alps and shares borders with France and Switzerland. It’s known for its Barolo and Barbaresco wine, but there are also plenty of medium-bodied red wines from the region.

For example, the Michele Chiarlo Barbera D’Asti Le Orme 2015 is from one of the most successful producers in the region. It’s a juicy and sweet wine, with plenty of minerally blackcurrant flavours, and goes brilliantly with pasta dishes.

Super Tuscan wines from further south

Moving down the country, we come to Tuscany. Most people know this region is famous for its Chianti, but there are also so-called ‘super Tuscans’ from different grapes.

Toscana la Massa 2015 is made from grapes tended in the Conca D’Oro, which is at the heart of the classic chianti region. It’s made from merlot, sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon, and is a luxurious tasting wine. It has notes of black cherries and chocolate, which makes it delicious with roasted meats or rich vegetable dishes.

If you want a typical chianti, then try Fontodi Chianti Classico 2015, which is made mostly from sangiovese grown in the same area as the Toscana la Massa. It’s rich and dark, yet fresh and elegant. Both wines are good choices.

Wines from Southern Italy

All the regions so far mentioned are the classic winemaking regions in Italy. If we go much further South to the Avellino part of the Campania region, we can also find delicious red wines. This region is just inland from Naples and was revitalised with a much-needed cash injection from the estate of Feudi Di San Gregorio in 1980 to boost wine production.

The estate makes wines that are growing in popularity all the time, including the Feudi Di San Gregorio Taurasi DOCG. His wine showcases the aglianico grape, with plenty of gentle spice, dark fruitiness and a balanced feel. It’s great with moussaka or slow-cooked pork.

Another major red grape from the south of Italy is primitivo. This is known as ‘zinfandel’ in the UK and the US and comes packed with multiple flavours. You’ll taste rich fruit, chocolate, violets and peppery spices. A great example is the Schola Sarmenti Cubardi Primitivo IGT Salento 2015, which is made from very old vines cultivated in Puglia. It’s best enjoyed after being decanted and left alone for a few hours and goes really well with red meat and cheeses. Watch out for the alcohol content of wines made from primitivo, as they tend to be on the high side.

Figures show 2018 was a very good year for wine harvests

Figures from the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) show that 2018 was a record-breaking year for global wine production. While 2017 was disappointing, with a small production due to adverse weather conditions, last year recovered to produce 293 million hectolitres globally.

Europe remains the biggest producer by a long way. The continent was responsible for the production of almost 70% of the total amount produced in 2018.

Why was 2018 a good year for wine harvests?

The world’s wine production increased to almost 293 million hectolitres last year. This is the biggest wine harvest since 2004, showing a large increase of almost 43 million hectolitres from 2017.

However, it should be remembered that the extreme weather in 2017 led to the smallest wine harvest for two decades. The bounce-back for 2018 was helped by the global vineyard surface area remaining the same size at 7.4 million hectares. More favourable weather conditions for growing also contributed to the increase in global wine production.

The biggest wine producers are still France, Italy and Spain who all increased their wine harvest production by around 24%. Most other European countries produced significantly more than in 2017 as well.

Wine production remains stable

The European Union (EU) produced 62% of the total in 2018, which is equal to 181.9 million hectolitres. However, the EU’s share is declining due to its more restrictive regulations making it trickier to plant new vineyards.

Outside of Europe, key wine producing countries include Australia, Chile, Argentina and America. Around 22% of the world’s wine production comes from these New World countries.

Other significant countries for wine production growth include China, Mexico and New Zealand. China is now the second largest grower of grapes in the world but doesn’t produce much wine in relative terms. Mexico increased its vineyards space to 34000 hectares, which is approximately the same size as Champagne in France.

How much wine is drunk every year?

The global consumption of wine is estimated at about 246 million hectolitres. This has been relatively stable since 2009 after a period of intense year-on-year growth. The US is the largest market for wine and has been since 2011 at 33 million hectolitres consumed.

China is the fifth largest wine market in the world at 18 million hectolitres, which marks a decrease of more than 6.5%. While consumption of wine in China has been rapidly increasing since 2000, last year represents a decline. Whether this is a temporary decline, or the beginning of a dramatic slide in wine consumption remains to be seen.