In past blogs I have written on wine terms, tastes and related topics. As an example: several weeks ago, I posted an article on the terms oaky and buttery (read that blog here). When we hear some people describe how wine tastes, either verbally or in writing, we hear or see lots of terms such as tannins, acidity, hints of vanilla or that the wine is velvety, oaky and so on. Wine terms are important and help us understand what makes the wine we are drinking taste the way it does. In the end the taste is the determining factor if we like the wine or not.
Over the weeks and months ahead I intend to write about these various wine terms. In today’s blog I am looking into tannins and minerality in wines.
One of the “official” definitions of the term “tannins” is:
“A natural component found to varying degrees in the skins, seeds and stems of grapes; most prominent in red wines where it creates a dry, puckering sensation in young reds of concentrated extract, mellows with aging and drops out of the wine to form sediment, a major component in the structure of red wines.”
We know where tannins come from but what are they? They are officially a compound named polyphenol (pa-le-fe-nol). How do they get into the wines? Polyphenols are release from the skins, seeds and stems during the period they are soaked in the grape juice just after the grapes have been pressed. You may recall past blogs where we have discussed the soaking process. After red grapes are pressed you get white juice. Then the red skins, seeds and stems are soaked in the white juice to turn it red and to add the polyphenol compounds to the juice.
You get the effects of the tannins any time you drink a red wine that leaves a drying sensation in your mouth. You can judge how tannic a wine is by how dry your mouth feels after tasting the wine. What makes a wine have stronger or weaker tannins depends on how long the skins, seeds and stems soak in the juice. The longer they soak the more tannin characteristics they will cause the wine to have.
The soaking period is officially named “maceration time.” The maceration period has a major influence on the wine. These influences include color, wine dryness, mouth-coating feeling, bitterness and balance. Tannins also allow the wine to have a longer aging potential. The mouth feel and a wine’s finish changes as the wine ages. It often becomes softer and more mellow (softer mouth feel). As red wine ages the tannins stop being suspended in the wine and turn into sediment which you find in the bottle.
The balance of a wine is greatly affected by the tannin level. As we have covered in past blogs, balance means that the tannins, fruit, acidity and alcohol are nearly equal. This balance of a wine allows a wine to age well and develop a great taste.
What does the term minerality mean? It is a term used to describe a flavor or aroma in wine that isn’t a spice, herb or fruit. Mineral notes can describe an aroma or taste, or both. The minerality tastes in wine are much more prevalent in white wines with crisp acidity and lower alcohol levels. The tastes and aromas can best be described as chalky, flinty, the taste of sea (salty), the smell of a wet sidewalk, or the smell of a chalk board or crushed rocks/gravel. These are mineral flavors instead of flavors such as plums, violets, floral notes, tobacco or oak.
There is a lot of discussion on how wine gets these mineral tastes. It is known that minerality isn’t transferred from soil to our taste buds via grapes. But we must all agree that minerality exists in wine and that it isn’t a bad thing. Often it appears in a wine finish in which case it is textural and flavorful.
In the coming weeks, we will continue to explore wine tasting terms. Hopefully this will help all of us in understand what we are tasting and assist us in determining whether we care for a wine or not.
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Until next week,
Calendar of Events
- February 18th – National Drink Wine Day
- March 3rd – National Mulled Wine Day
- April 17th – International Malbec Day
- May 3rd – International Sauvignon Blanc Day
- May 9th – World Moscato Day
- May 23rd – International Chardonnay Day
- May 25th – National Wine Day
- June 8th – National Rosé Wine Day
- June 20th – National Lambrusco Day