Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
I have been studying wine for nearly 30 years and am still baffled by some of the descriptions used by tasters. Question: What are "round tannins"? Versus what? Square tannins?
—Bill C., Waterville, Maine
Wine lovers might wax poetic at times, but their intention is rarely to sound obscure or to baffle someone with their descriptors. Tannins, as you may know, are the mouth-puckering group of compounds found in the skins, stem and seeds of grapes, as well as in oak barrels. Tannins give wine backbone and structure. Because of the balance of tannins with other components, such as sweetness, body, and acidity, this sensation can seem smooth and round. Other times, tannins stick out and can seem coarse, rough or chewy.
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