Embarrassing Moment, Makeup Mishap, or Too Many Tannins?


It’s that time you’ve been waiting for all day…HAPPY HOUR!  You rush to the bar, wait impatiently for the bartender, order that drink at the better-than-normal price and ahhh…relax.  But then, something happens that was unexpected.  No, all you wanted was wine and mindless conversations with friends.

Scenario 1:  You get to the bar, order the best glass of red you can get based on the happy hour special, sip and ahhh…happiness.  Conversation begins and a friend brings up that story from when you were in college and…WHOA!  We’re not going past that point.  Not acceptable for a G-rated piece.  All you know is you turn bright red, that glass of wine is gone because you drank it so fast, even though everybody else around you seemed to love the story and continues to sip their drink.  Next step, ‘bartender — another round, ASAP, on them!’

Scenario 2:  Getting ready for happy hour, freshening up the makeup.  Doh, forgot to put on the blush.  You quickly grab it and put it on without relying on your friend, aka Mirror.  You get to the bar and order your favorite red that’s on special.  People sort of look at you, but you know it’s because they are just glad to see you.  You eventually go to the bathroom. OMG!  Did I really do that?  Let’s go to Makeup 101 and learn how to put blush on properly or not use it at all.  You look like a clown or 5-year old playing with makeup, with beyond red cheeks.

Scenario 3:  Happy Hour!  Wine!  Finally!  You’re chatting with friends, having a wonderful time and couldn’t ask for anything more.  Perfect way to end the workday.  You get home and your cheeks are bright red.  Why?  You didn’t paint your face with the wine.  That would be a crime!  And, you didn’t have that much so as to attempt such a task.  You still can’t determine what the cause is.

As such, though Scenarios 1 and 2 are totally possible, many of us are most likely to face (no pun intended) Scenario 3 because of the tannins in red wine.  That amazing fluid that we enjoy doesn’t complete agree with us in more ways that one.

There are some reds that have more tannins than others that cause this frustrating problem.  So of course, the more prepared we are, the better.  Some background info on the culprit for your (continued) reading pleasure — grab a glass while you’re reading this, or pretend you have one:

TANNINS

Tannins are the flavonoids in wine that give its degree of mouth-drying bitterness. The taste is the same as when you bite into a grape skin. Tannin is a chemical substance that comes from grape skins, stems, and seeds. The skins also impart color to wine, which is why red wines typically have a lot more tannin than whites. Red wines are fermented while in contact with the skins and seeds. Modern winemakers take care to minimize undesirable tannins from seeds by crushing grapes gently when extracting their juice.

Wines can also take on tannins from the oak or other woods used in wine barrels for storage. Different woods in different countries affect the type of tannins in the wine.

Tannins help prevent oxidation, an important role in a wine’s aging potential. As age-worthy red wines mature, tannin molecules gradually accumulate and precipitate out of the wine in the sediment.

Certain wine styles have much less tannin content than others, due to reduced maceration time (grape juice contact with the grape pulp, including sources of tannin such as stems, seeds). Grape varieties like Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Gamay (Beaujolais), Tempranillo, and the Italian grapes Dolcetto and Barbera, are less tannic. Also, grapes grown in certain wine regions are less tannic, like French reds from Burgundy, and Spanish wine regions like Spanish Riojas.

French reds from Bordeaux, and Italian reds like Barolo and Barbaresco, are particularly tannic. Vintage port is also very tannic when young, as are wines made from the syrah (shiraz) and cabernet sauvignon grapes.

A quick way to identify these lower tannic wine bottles on a store shelf is to look for the sloped shoulder “Burgundy bottle”. This is specially true for European wines, but several new world wineries have also adopted traditional bottle shapes to help consumers distinguish their wines.

The tannins that are extracted from grapes found in red wine are primarily condensed tannins which are polymers of procyanidin monomers. Hydrolysable tannins are extracted from the oak wood the wine is aged in. Hydrolysable tannins are more easily oxidised than condensed tannins.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_wine_headache — half way down via the link

WHOA…that was some info and wine for thought.

As I continued to research, I wanted to provide a quick bulleted list of what I/we should drink in public vs. only consume at home.  Here is a nice idea of tannin levels, from lightest to boldest.  Print this out, make a cheat sheet, put it in your purse or wallet to take with you so you’re ready when you hit Happy Hour, go on that blind date, have a business meeting or simply want to impress friends with all your wine knowledge:

Beaujolais (low tannin)
Tempranillo (low tannin)
Pinot Noir, from the US (low to medium tannin)
Burgundy (low to medium tannin)
Chianti Classico (low to medium tannin)
Barbaresco (low to medium tannin)
Bordeaux (low to medium tannin)
Merlot, from the United States (low tannin)
Zinfandel (medium to high tannin)
Cabernet Sauvignon, from the US or Australia (high tannin)
Rhône, Syrah, Shiraz (high tannin)

(Well, Syrah/Shiraz is one of my favorites which explains a lot…)

Some other nice articles:

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-tannin-affects-red-wines-taste.seriesId-325340.html

http://www.finewineandgoodspirits.com/webapp/wcs/stores/WineandSpirits/learnentertain/entertain/wine_sensitivities.html

To summarize, your cheeks might only be red because you are enjoying wonderful grapes, spending time with friends and living life to its fullest. From Beaujolais to Shiraz lovers, and everybody in between, pop those cork and drink on…

Varietals

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