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Dear Dr. Vinny,

How can I tell if I’m tasting tannins or acidity?

—Patrick G., New York

Dear Patrick,

You’re probably tasting both—both tannins and acidity are present in every wine, at varying levels, and both combine to create the structure of a wine (along with glycerin and alcohol).

To distinguish between the two, I find it helpful to think of acidity like a squirt of lemon—it adds a juicy, bright quality, and balances out sweetness or richness. Acidity is typically more present in white wines. Tannins, on the other hand, are more about grip—the pull on the sides of your mouth, especially if you’re drinking a red. Tannins give wine traction. When they’re round and smooth, they can feel like velvet or even silk. If they’re overwhelming, they can be harsh and drying, like too-strong tea.

—Dr. Vinny

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