Tannins are oh-so-tacky
My friend, a diehard white wine drinker, discovered for the first time that zinfandel is truly red. She was game for trying it, but not a fan of that bottle in the end. It was too dry, she said.
Perhaps that was true, but what she went on to describe was more a function of tannins than dryness, which typically is used to describe the opposite of sweet in a wine. Tannins are tacky—and by this, I don’t mean they’re rockin’ some 70s polyester in a groovy orange pattern. I mean, as Merriam-Webster uses it, somewhat sticky to the touch.
Tannins in wine come from the grapes’ leaves, stems and skin and sometimes the oak in which it is aged. Tannins tend to be more bold, sometimes even harsh, when a wine is young. As it ages, they are known to mellow, though the exact chemical process still is being studied. Wines will have more or fewer tannins by virtue of their varietal and/or how they are made—whether they spend a lot of time in contact with their skins, for example (which is why darker reds are sometimes more tannic), or whether the winemaker removes the stems and seeds before crushing.
You can sense tannins by that tacky feeling in your mouth. It’s what makes your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth. Whether you like that or not is a matter of personal preference. Some tannins are necessary to provide structure, along with alcohol and acidity, as we’ve discussed. Too high a level of tannins will make you pucker. A wine that needs a bit of time for the tannins to mellow is said to have young tannins. A well-balanced wine is said to have smooth tannins, round tannins, balanced tannins, a good mouth-feel. Just Grapes has, among others, a pinot noir in its selection said to have plump, round tannins, if you’d like to sample such a thing.
Being tacky isn’t bad when it comes to wine. But please: Save the orange polyester for next Halloween!