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What do Tannat wines taste like?

It's Tannat day, and while it may still fly a little under the radar, this grape variety is producing brilliant red wines from south-west France to Uruguay.

Red wines made from Tannat are classically deep-hued and intense with a lush kernel of black fruit, from plums to black cherry and cassis, wrapped in plenty of tannins that can range from bold to fine-grained and supple.  

As you probably know by now, decisions in the vineyard and the cellar can result in varying styles.

Balance is always the key, and some of the best recent examples of Tannat wines integrate the variety’s tannin content with natural acidity and bright fruit – as the examples below show.

You can also find Tannat being used to make rosé wines.

Madiran

In Madiran, Tannat’s traditional heartland of south-west France, you might find Tannat blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Cabernet Franc.

Producers have been working with ways to manage tannin content in the wines to ensure a harmonious balance with other elements, according to the region’s wine body.

Lauded wine producer Alain Brumont is known for pioneering a new wave of pure Tannat wines in Madiran, launching his Château Montus Prestige in 1985.

Decanter’s Stephen Brook met him in 2020 and tasted several wines, including the 100% Tannat, Montus Prestige 2009.

Suave and very rich, it shows depth and spice and immense concentration, but it’s balanced by high acidity that keeps it taut,’ Brook wrote.

It’s possible to make lighter styles of Tannat varietal wines, too. This cooperative-made Madiran is 90% Tannat and shows a ‘lighter touch’ with supple tannins yet opulent fruit, according to Brook. 

This Château Bouscassé 2015 Madiran AOC wine blends 60% Tannat with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. It’s ‘ripe and full-bodied, with dark, tarry, sweet black fruit’, said Decanter’s Amy Wislocki, but everything is in balance and it ‘shows how approachable Madiran can be’. 

Beyond France, this Pueblo Edén Tannat from Uruguay’s Viña Edén is ‘joyously fruity’ with fresh acidity, wrote Decanter’s Tina Gellie recently.

Speaking of Uruguay, the country is making a name for itself with fascinating styles of Tannat.

Tannat wines in Uruguay: Is this a new ‘Malbec’ story?

Jane Anson wrote in 2017 that Uruguay was the only country to have taken in Tannat as its national grape, a move that inevitably invites comparisons with how Argentina reimagined Malbec.

‘Estates like Bodega Garzon – located in a coastal village of the same name, close to Punta del Este by coincidence – have produced a more contemporary-styled version that is helping to smooth Tannat’s image of rustic, hard tannins in international markets,’ Anson wrote.

Tim Atkin MW marvelled at Uruguay’s ‘great ascent’ in this article last year.

And he cited a ‘world-class’ example of Tannat from Bouza winery in Montevideo in his article on 30 great South American red blends, too.

His tasting note praised the wine’s ‘top notes of violet, sweet spices and cut grass [with a] palate of cassis, plum, strawberry [and] nuanced tannins’.

You’ll also find the grape variety in some other parts of the wine world.

This Stinson Vineyards Tannat-dominant wine from Virginia in the US clocks in at 15.1% abv, but the tannins and 27 months ageing in new French oak are matched by floral notes and bright fruit, noted Jason Tesauro. 


You may also like: 

Madiran: A regional profile and top wines to seek out

Uruguay’s great ascent

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