Erik Neilson on February 15, 2017 1 Comment There are a number of aspects associated with wine that cause divides for many people. None can quite compare to the influence of tannins, which can have a dramatic effect on a wine’s mouthfeel and texture. For the unfamiliar, tannins come from the stems, seeds and skins of grapes, as well as from oak barrels and certain adjuncts. The more contact these elements have with the wine, the more tannic it will typically be. Excessive amounts of tannins make a wine taste and feel “dry,” which can be felt especially towards the front of the mouth and in the middle of the tongue. They create a puckering astringency and bitterness that can either add structure and body to the wine or make it difficult to drink for even the boldest of wine lovers. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of middle ground associated with tannic wines — you either love them, or you don’t. No matter where you stand on tannins, it helps to know which grape varietals have the potential to be highly tannic and which tend to be more restrained. Here, then, are some of the world’s most tannic grapes — all of which are capable of producing stunningly well-structured wines. 1. Nebbiolo The Nebbiolo grape is, in many ways, Italy’s prized possession. It’s a huge part of the Barolo wine that many collectors stock their cellars with, and the distinctive grape is noticeable at first taste for those who have experienced it before. It’s also known for being extremely tannic and bold, not to mention a wine that requires a great deal of patience on the part of the consumer. In most cases, Nebbiolo requires as much as 10 years in the bottle before mellowing out to the point of being drinkable, which goes to show just how much of a backbone this precious grape has. Damilano’s 2004 Barolo Lecinquevigne is a beautiful example of what the Nebbiolo grape can achieve, and it’s ready to drink now. 2. Cabernet Sauvignon If there’s one grape that most people are familiar with as being tannic, it’s Cabernet Sauvignon. Cultivated the world over and appreciated for its bold, heavy properties, Cabernet is almost always tannic and can be made more so via certain fermentation and maceration techniques. This is especially true of Cabernet that is produced in Napa Valley, where the tannic elements of the grape are left to remain in contact with the wine for long periods of time. The rich tannic structure of Cabernet Sauvignon speaks in large part to its ability to pair perfectly with bold foods, not to mention the divide this wine causes among those who favor lighter varietals. 3. Syrah Syrah is an interesting grape in that it’s versatile enough to jump from style to style with ease. There are Syrah wines that are light as air, but there are also Syrahs that are big, bold and chewy. Wines characteristic of the latter qualities tend to be more commonly found than those of the former category, and their tannins typically shine in rare fashion. Syrah wine from California’s Central Coast is especially bold and tannic, as is that from Australia, where the grape is known as Shiraz. The Northern Rhone region of France is also known for producing highly tannic Syrah, particularly in Cornas. 4. Monastrell There are few grapes — if any — that can compare to Monastrell in terms of overall meatiness and ability to stand up to the richest, boldest foods imaginable. The grape goes by a couple of different names, referred to in Australia as Mataro and outside of Spain as Mourvedre, but its tannic qualities nevertheless remain consistent no matter where it happens to be grown. Earthy and almost animalistic, high-test versions of Monastrell wine can be found in the Jumilla region of Spain, as well as the Central Coast of California (where it’s called Mourvedre). Not for the faint of heart. Click Here To Read Our Sangiovese Tasting Guide 5. Sangiovese The Sangiovese grape is omnipresent in Italy and elsewhere. If you’ve ever sat down to a Chianti with a bowl of red sauce pasta, you’re familiar with the tannic qualities of this grape. Sangiovese dominates Chianti, often accounting for 100% of the wine. Its reputation as being perfect for pairing with food is based largely on the fact that it is highly tannic and able to stand up to bold flavors without issue. Because of this, many Italian restaurants will leave bottles of Chianti or Sangiovese on the table for guests to enjoy prior to even presenting menus. 6. Montepulciano Another highly tannic wine from Italy, this time heading south to Abruzzo. Montepulciano brings along with it the finest characteristics of plum and tomato flavors, making it ideal for pairing with pizza of any kind. It’s the grape of choice in the area, not least for the fact that it drinks quite firmly on its own and doesn’t necessarily have to be paired with anything. As the grapes are left in contact with the wine for longer and longer periods of time, it becomes increasingly tannic and astringent. Despite its tannic qualities, however, Montepulciano wine tends to somehow remain easy drinking and quaffable. 7. Malbec Malbec is a rather interesting wine to discuss when it comes to tannins and one that most wine enthusiasts are familiar with. Low-end, approachable Malbec (ie: bottles $10 and under) tend to be extremely easy drinking and even soft to the palate, which is one reason why so many people gravitate to this wine in the first place. Boutique, more expensive bottles from Argentina, on the other hand, tend to be quite opposite in structure: big, bold and heavily tannic. The best way to experience the difference between these two styles is to open a bottle of each to contrast and compare, and the results can be quite shocking. Tannins are nothing to be afraid of, and there’s even some evidence that they can be beneficial to our health. So long as you know which grapes they tend to be present in large amounts, you’ll have a better chance of choosing the wine that’s right for you the next time you find yourself browsing the shelves.