What are they?
Tannins are the chewy, dry, astringent, and bitter taste you find in red wine. Teas, tree bark, and nuts with skin (such as walnuts) contain an organic polyphenol that is also found in seeds and the stems of grapes. Voila! Tannins!
Tannins are only found in red wines, as opposed to white, because of the way it is made. White grapes are pressed and the juice is left to ferment, whereas red grapes sit in all of their gunk before being pressed and absorb the tannins from the grape skins and seeds.
Winemakers can control the amount of tannins that go into their products. The longer the wines sit in their “gunk” the more tannins will be pulled out. However, there are some grapes of that have more tannins than others.
Pinot noir and Gamay have lower levels, whereas Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon have higher levels.
It’s good to keep in mind that tannins soften over time, which is the reason why red wines often benefit from aeration or decanting.
How are food pairings related?
Tannins play a big role in food and wine pairing.
Pairing red wines with meat creates a softer flavor as the tannins bind with the protein in your steak. It’s the same reason why we don’t pair reds with fish, because they make it taste metallic and gross.
It’s science, folks!
Tannins and antioxidants
Tannins contain antioxidants. In turn, red wines are more stable and have fewer sulphites and additives than white wine. If you would like to know more about sulphites in wine, then check out my post here.