Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny

Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Can you please describe what a tannin is, and what it tastes like in red wines?

—Richard, Canada

Dear Richard,

Tannins are a type of naturally occurring biomolecule found in certain woods and other plants, like tea, nuts and spices. Wine gets its tannins from grape skins and seeds, as well as from oak barrels. Even though tannins are in all wines, they’re at a higher level and thus more perceptible in red wines than in whites because red wines are fermented with their skins (and white wines are fermented without).

Tannins don’t have a taste so much as a feel to them. They’re responsible for the grip on the sides of your mouth and the traction you may feel on your tongue. If you’ve noticed how a strong cup of black tea can have a puckering effect, those are tannins.

Tannins are just one part of a wine’s structure, along with glycerol, alcohol and acidity. Depending on how much tannin a wine has and its relationship to the other elements, tannins can be described as dusty, velvety, chewy, tight, round or even ripe.

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.