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Toning down the tannins – Ask Decanter

How do you tone down the tannins in the winery for an early-drinking style...?

Toning down the tannins – Ask Decanter

Toby Graham, by email, asks: I work in wine retail in Australia and am often asked about wines produced in an early-drinking style that are ‘approachable while still young’.

I assume my customers are talking about tannin management; a softer and more integrated, balanced mouthfeel. How does one achieve that in the winery?

For example, a big Cabernet can have big tannins, which prolong its life and reward cellaring, but how do you tame down the tannins in the winery for an early-drinking style?

Kevin Glastonbury, senior red winemaker at Yalumba, Australia, replies: There are several ways to achieve this.

First is selecting the right vineyard that can/will produce less tannic grapes.

Second is picking the grapes at the desired level of balanced ripeness.

See also: What is the tannin scale? Ask Decanter

Third is ensuring the pH and acid levels are in balance (a slightly higher pH will give a rounder, softer mouthfeel). Lastly, when the grapes are in the winery, fermenting at a lower temperature (ie, 24°C) and less pumpover and wetting of the skins with the red juice will reduce the extraction of tannins.

This should give red wines that are rounder, softer and more approachable.

This question first appeared in the December 2018 issue of Decanter magazine.

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