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Tannins and Body

This lesson is a part of an audio course Wine Course with an International Expert by Matteo Girardi

In our previous lesson, we learned how to detect acidity and sweetness in a wine.

In this lesson you will start to learn how to detect tannins and body in a wine.

In the first lesson we already talked about the tannins in a grape.

These compounds are found inside grape skins, seeds, and stems.

You also learned that they are present mainly in the skins of the black grape varieties.

The level of tannins in a wine depends on different factors, like the grape variety used, but also on winemaking practices and vintage variation.

For this course we will focus only on grape varieties with different levels of tannins.

Around the world we have different black grape varieties, and every grape has its own characteristics.

In the red wines, to extract the tannins (and the colour) we must leave the skins and the juice in contact during the fermentation.

The Cabernet Sauvignon is a black grape variety that has thick skins, and the berries are not so big.

The fact that the berries are not so big is important because it increases the ratio between the juice and the skins.

We have more skins in contact with less juice during the fermentation, increasing the extraction of tannins (and colour).

The Pinot Noir has thin skins, this means lower level of tannins and lower level of colour.

When you drink a red wine, the tannins make your mouth dry and you feel more astringency between the gums and the teeths.

If they are unripe, they could also leave you with a bitter taste.

It is not easy to describe tannins during a wine tasting, you need experience.

But with the task that you will find at the end of this lesson you will understand better what they are.

When you assess the tannins, you should think of them in combination with the body of a wine.

What is the body of a wine?

In a few words, the body of a wine is how heavy and rich that wine feels in your mouth.

The body is a combination of things, not only one.

We could say that it is made by the alcohol, the sugar, the flavours and the tannins.

The alcohol could be considered the main factor assessing the body, but also sugar can increase the body of a wine.

The acidity if it is high, can make it seem that a wine has less body.

Tannins and body, like sweetness and acidity, should be taken into consideration together.

But this will be the topic of our next course.

You have a double task for this lesson!

I am sure that after this experience you will understand better the concepts of body and tannins!

You need to pour the same wine in three different glasses (always around 5-6 centilitres).

The ideal wine would be a dry wine, with alcohol around 12,5% and it should have low levels of tannins. A perfect example could be a Valpolicella Classico from Italy, but you could ask for advice when you will buy it.

The first glass will be useful as a benchmark.

In the second glass you must add a black tea bag.


Because in the black tea there are tannins.

You must wait 4-5 minutes (like for a tea) and then drink it.

In this experience focus only on the astringency you should feel between the gums and the teeth (remember to swirl the wine in your mouth).

These are the tannins!

In the third glass you must add 2-3 centilitres of not flavoured Vodka.

When you drink this wine focus only on how much heavier the same wine is, just with some extra alcohol added.

This is the concept of the body!

In our next lesson, you will learn to assess the alcohol, flavours, and finish in a wine.

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Written by

Matteo Girardi