Laraine Miller, Nevada, USA, asks: I have an allergy to tannins, but I recently saw a documentary in which it was stated that Champagne has no tannins. Is it true?
Vitalie Taittinger, president of Champagne Taittinger, replies: Tannins are long-chain polyphenols present in many fruits, seeds, leaves, bark, tea and chocolate that have a bitter, astringent taste. In wine, tannins are present where the skins have been macerated to extract them from the skins of the (mainly red) grapes.
Thin-skinned varieties like Pinot Noir and Gamay have less tannin. Contact with oak during winemaking can also increase tannin content. White wines that have seen no skin contact prior to, or during, fermentation will have virtually no tannin, unless they have seen contact with oak.
Given the way Champagne is made, with minimal skin contact for white Champagne and generally little oak contact for most, the tannin component of Champagne is virtually nil, though there may be small amounts with deeper-coloured styles of rosé.
Tannins have been linked to a reduction in blood pressure and have proven antimicrobial properties. There have also been studies that have linked tannin to the onset of migraines, but such instances are rare, and most research has concluded that tannins are generally beneficial to human health.
This question first appeared in the February 2020 issue of Decanter magazine.