Tannins: Overview, Benefits, Side Effects, & More

Any wine connoisseur is going to run into the term Tannins when drinking wine. Although the word is freely used in many wine circles, some may not know the exact meaning of the word. The word Tannin has quite a history, originally coming from the word tanning. Tannins or tanning was a term applied to the tanning and curing of animal skins. Tannins are located in plants and the extracted polyphenolic compounds bind well with proteins changing the properties. In plants, tannins act as a defense mechanism giving an unpleasant taste to its leaves to sway off herbivores. This process exists in grape vines and in wine.

Tannins found in wine are actually quite helpful in giving a distinctive taste to a wine. The pleasant combination of sugar, acidity and tannins can produce an amazing tasting wine. The next time you taste a dry red wine, it is most likely due to the amount of tannins in the wine. The tannins bind to the saliva proteins of the mouth giving you that pucker type dry feeling. They can also add a little bitterness which can compliment a wine with a lot of sugar or acid. Not only do the tannins give quality to wine but it also gives the ability of aging. You may come across a review that might say drinks young or will be better in 1-2 years. Terms like these are based on the tannins. Wine sometimes when first bottled may be big and very tannic or astringent, but as the years go by, the tannins soften and give great quality to many red wines. So the real secret to producing great red wines is based on how you control your tannins. There is also research that might suggest that the tannins affect the color of wine as well.

Health Benefits

The newest craze and research is on Resveratrol which is a molecule found in the skin of grapes. There is a host of health effects promoting the consumption of full bodied wines. The benefits include prolonging the life of obese mice, as well as benefiting the cardiovascular system. To be a bit more scientific, oligomeric procyanidins also known as flavanoids are in fact condensed tannins which suppress production of peptides which are responsible for hardening arteries. Although more research is needed in this area, it was shown that red wine has reduced the risks of stroke and heart attacks and Alzheimer’s disease. Other reports say that tannic acid can help maintain normal kidney function, and act as an anti-inflammatory agent in the stomach possessing inflammatory properties helping bowel movements.

The Downside

The good definitely outweighs the bad but there are a few downsides to tannins. Tannins are located in everything from chocolate to coffee, wine and many other products. One downside is that tannins love to stain which is why dentist recommend limiting coffee or wine intake. Another bad downside is that tannins block the body’s absorption of Iron so it is suggested to drink your tea or coffee after a meal to prevent throwing off your vitamin consumption. Some people also complained that tannins are associated with migrane headaches but the research so far hasn’t associated any real evidence of that.

So to sum up the following article: Tannins are great for your health and can give great qualities to wine and many doctors are recommending a glass a day for many in hopes of improving their cardiovascular health. More research is needed to find the full effects of tannins in the body so go enjoy a glass of wine and start drinking your way to good health.

Further reading: Summer Wine Recommendations

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