What are “chewy” tannins?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What is the difference between “chewy” tannins and those that are not?

—Jeff C., Atlanta

Dear Jeff,

The “chewy” sensation comes in dense, big or full-bodied wines, where there’s a fleshy, thick texture to the wine that feels like you almost need to chew the wine before swallowing. I sometimes find myself actually making a chewing motion while tasting a chewy wine, so using the term comes very organically to me.

Chewy is usually a positive descriptor, indicating that even though there are prominent tannins in the wine, they’re not overwhelming. But using the term “chewy” together with “rustic,” “drying,” or “harsh” might indicate a distracting note in a wine that’s tougher to love. Tannins come in a variety of styles; they can also be silky, velvety, lush or supple. It varies based on how the tannins balance with the other elements in the wine, like fruitiness, body and acidity.

—Dr. Vinny

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