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Steve Slatcher

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The smell of tannin

by Steve Slatcher » Sat Aug 16, 2008 5:18 pm

Do tannins smell of anything? And if so, what? I have a Madiran from 2000 in front of me now, and I can get very little on the nose apart from a certain hardness that smells to me like tannins taste if you see what I mean. To be honest I am not 100% sure how tannins taste either - bitter I guess, but I don't think they are all like that, judging how flavours correlate with astringency. Sorry - all a bit waffly. Any thoughts
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Re: The smell of tannin

by Dale Williams » Sat Aug 16, 2008 6:49 pm

I think of tannins more as a feeling than a taste. I understand the "waffly" thing, because it is difficult to describe physical sensations. I personally can't imagine smelling tannins, but that's just me.
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Re: The smell of tannin

by Sam Platt » Sat Aug 16, 2008 7:08 pm

Steve,

I worked in a lumber yard during college and to me tannins taste like saw dust. A tannic wine gives me the same taste and mouth feel as running an industrial wood planer for a couple of hours. My personal experience is that tannins do not have a aroma.
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Re: The smell of tannin

by John Treder » Sat Aug 16, 2008 10:44 pm

I think of tannins as the sticky-on-your-teeth stuff. Like strong black tea.

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Re: The smell of tannin

by Mark Lipton » Sun Aug 17, 2008 1:31 am

Steve Slatcher wrote:Do tannins smell of anything? And if so, what? I have a Madiran from 2000 in front of me now, and I can get very little on the nose apart from a certain hardness that smells to me like tannins taste if you see what I mean. To be honest I am not 100% sure how tannins taste either - bitter I guess, but I don't think they are all like that, judging how flavours correlate with astringency. Sorry - all a bit waffly. Any thoughts


Steve,
Tannins are large molecules that don't exist in the gas phase to any significant extent under normal conditions. As such, they shouldn't have any smell as they never reach your nose. As others have noted, they also don't really have a flavor, but impart a distinct physical sensation of astringency, noticeable as roughness resulting from their binding the proteins on the inside of your mouth.

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Re: The smell of tannin

by Daniel Rogov » Sun Aug 17, 2008 4:14 am

Agreed that tannins have neither aroma nor flavor. That, of course, is also true of other items used in describing wines (e.g. flint, gun-metal) and like those, there are analogs that can help describe the "illusion of taste" that is imparted. In the case of tannins, think of a pomegranate - not the seeds but the white pith inside that separates the seeds. Next time you open a pomegranate, separate out a very small piece of that pith, place it first on the tongue and touch a drop or two of water to it.... Afterwards, chew the pith (it will do you no harm) . That will provide a good working model for the "taste and aroma sensations" imparted by tannins.

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Re: The smell of tannin

by Steve Slatcher » Sun Aug 17, 2008 4:48 am

Everyone

Thank for replies so far. I am a bit more coherent now. Perhaps because I DON'T have a glass of Madiran in front of me.

I am very much aware that main effect of tannins on wine perception is astringency. But you do see occasional references to tannins having flavour. The most authoritative (though, I grant, not necessarily correct) I can find are from Peynaud in "The Taste of Wine". At the end of chapter 5 he writes of flavoursome, bitter and acid tannins. And at the end of Chapter 8 "According to the level of tannin [...] a red wine will be fruity or, on the contrary, it will smell and taste of skins, stems and pips; what I call a woody taste." It seems I should have found that last quote before I asked the original question, because that is pretty much how I am seeing the situation. I actually really dislike that woody smell, which sometimes I think also comes from over oaking.

But I suppose the woody taste described by Peynaud need not be due to the tannins themselves; they could come from something else that happens to accompany tannins. Actually that seems to be the most likely explanation to me at the moment. (Just read your reply Rogov, which appeared as I was typing this. Your view sounds very similar to this idea, though not identical.)

Mark, I was suspecting that tannins were not volatile.

Does anyone have access to any scientific research demonstrating that tannins are tasteless?
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Re: The smell of tannin

by Victorwine » Sun Aug 17, 2008 2:42 pm

Steve wrote;
Mark, I was suspecting that tannins were not volatile.

Wouldn’t that depend upon which type, form, derivative, or concentration of the tannin is present when tasting the wine?

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Re: The smell of tannin

by NayanGowda » Sun Aug 17, 2008 3:03 pm

FWIW, when you make up tannin additions to juice/ferments/wine you really can smell the tannin (ranging from nutty, to woody to bitter coffee, depending on the tannin used). I can taste that aroma in most (though not all) finished wines where tannins have been added.
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Re: The smell of tannin

by Steve Slatcher » Sun Aug 17, 2008 5:00 pm

Interesting, Nayan. Do you know if tannin additives are "pure tannin" - whatever that means? Or could it be that they smell of what they were derived from?

Incidentally, my Madiran was nicer this afternoon after some 24 hours in a decanter at room temperature. To be honest, I thought the astringency was about the same, but the harsh woody notes (aroma and taste) were gone and the fruit was a lot more to the fore. Slightly oxidised too, but still an improvement.
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Re: The smell of tannin

by NayanGowda » Sun Aug 17, 2008 5:49 pm

Steve,

They are derived from a number of different sources (chestnut, oak, grape seeds etc); the "purity" varies. If I'm going to use any then I have found that grape derived are the most synergistic/least noticeable (probably not a surprise).
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Re: The smell of tannin

by Victorwine » Sun Aug 17, 2008 11:45 pm

Personal I don’t think the tannins themselves have an aroma; one will experience an aroma when the tannins (this will surely depend upon what type of tannin it is) react with other components present. When making tannin addition to juice or must one does not actually increase the tannin concentration of the “finished” product this is because yeast will “tie” up or “react” with most of the tannin addition.

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Re: The smell of tannin

by Mark Lipton » Mon Aug 18, 2008 1:26 am

NayanGowda wrote:FWIW, when you make up tannin additions to juice/ferments/wine you really can smell the tannin (ranging from nutty, to woody to bitter coffee, depending on the tannin used). I can taste that aroma in most (though not all) finished wines where tannins have been added.


Given the fact that we can detect smells at the ppb range, I would be highly skeptical that what you're smelling in those tannins isn't a trace impurity from whatever the source is. The prototype for condensed tannins would be epicatechin, a crystalline solid with a melting point of 195°C and which decomposes before boiling. The prototypical condensed tannin is galloylglucose, which most likely has a similar melting point. The higher polymers of these species are even less likely to exist in the gas phase (volatility being inversely related to molecular weight).

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Re: The smell of tannin

by Steve Slatcher » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:44 am

Victorwine wrote:When making tannin addition to juice or must one does not actually increase the tannin concentration of the “finished” product this is because yeast will “tie” up or “react” with most of the tannin addition.

So why is it added? And does one add tannin after the fermentation too?
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Re: The smell of tannin

by Victorwine » Mon Aug 18, 2008 7:14 am

It all depends on what kind of tannin one is adding and for what purpose, some tannin is added when crushing the grapes other tannins are added post fermentation and when aging the wine.

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Re: The smell of tannin

by Steve Slatcher » Mon Aug 18, 2008 7:54 am

Victorwine wrote:It all depends on what kind of tannin one is adding and for what purpose, some tannin is added when crushing the grapes other tannins are added post fermentation and when aging the wine.

It's the tannin added when crushing the grape - the tannin that does not make it through to the finished product - that puzzles me.
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Re: The smell of tannin

by Thomas » Mon Aug 18, 2008 9:46 am

Steve Slatcher wrote:
Does anyone have access to any scientific research demonstrating that tannins are tasteless?


With taste being a reflection of smell, I assume there is an aroma, minuscule as it may be.

When working with powdered tannin for my wine classes, I detect a tree bark aroma from the powder. The taste reminds me of the astringency of deep, dark (98%) chocolate. How they relate is beyond my understanding.

As Mark says, the aroma may be from whatever is used to derive the tannin, but isn't that the case with all aromas of derivatives?
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Re: The smell of tannin

by Thomas » Mon Aug 18, 2008 9:57 am

Steve Slatcher wrote:
Victorwine wrote:It all depends on what kind of tannin one is adding and for what purpose, some tannin is added when crushing the grapes other tannins are added post fermentation and when aging the wine.

It's the tannin added when crushing the grape - the tannin that does not make it through to the finished product - that puzzles me.



Puzzles me, too.

Adding tannin during fermentation is (or should be) for the purpose of increasing the tannin mouth feel, which would have the reverse effect on the wine's fruit/sweetness.
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Re: The smell of tannin

by Victorwine » Mon Aug 18, 2008 10:12 am

Steve,
After crushing the grapes one has the option to let the juice settle (white wine production) or let the must undergo a pre-fermentation maceration (aka cold soak, red wine production) for some time (this will be a judgment call- couple of hours to a few days) before inoculation or “letting” the wild yeast present, begin to ferment. So adding tannins (and possible enzymes) in red wine production at crush and letting the must “sit” for awhile prior to inoculating, or letting the wild yeast present begin to ferment, for the purpose of extracting more color lets say, makes sense to me. (I’m giving the tannin and enzymes time to do their “job”).

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Re: The smell of tannin

by Thomas » Mon Aug 18, 2008 11:53 am

Victorwine wrote:Steve,
After crushing the grapes one has the option to let the juice settle (white wine production) or let the must undergo a pre-fermentation maceration (aka cold soak, red wine production) for some time (this will be a judgment call- couple of hours to a few days) before inoculation or “letting” the wild yeast present, begin to ferment. So adding tannins (and possible enzymes) in red wine production at crush and letting the must “sit” for awhile prior to inoculating, or letting the wild yeast present begin to ferment, for the purpose of extracting more color lets say, makes sense to me. (I’m giving the tannin and enzymes time to do their “job”).

Salute


Victor, I believe it's the enzymes that work to extract more color not the tannin additions. The tannins are added to affect the structure. I could be wrong about the color, but I know that tannin additions affect the wine's structure.
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Re: The smell of tannin

by Victorwine » Mon Aug 18, 2008 1:03 pm

Today even amateur winemakers have an array of different types of tannins available to them. Generally you can break the “class” of tannin into two categories (This is what Scott lab does) (1) Fermentation or color tannins and (2) Aging and Finishing tannins. The fermentation tannin is formulated to either just add tannin to grapes that are naturally low in tannin or to enhance and stabilize color. Aging and finishing tannins are formulated to add structure and possible enhance “varietal character”.

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Re: The smell of tannin

by Thomas » Mon Aug 18, 2008 2:07 pm

Victorwine wrote: The fermentation tannin is formulated to either just add tannin to grapes that are naturally low in tannin or to enhance and stabilize color.
Salute


Probably the key is in the word "formulated." Perhaps, tannins formulated with color-extracting enzymes.
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Re: The smell of tannin

by Victorwine » Mon Aug 18, 2008 8:35 pm

Thomas,
As far as enhancing the color I always thought specific tannins will link or bond with anthocyanin molecules therefore making them stable and hence enhancing color. The presence of certain enzymes will just aid or “help out” these reactions to take place.

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Re: The smell of tannin

by Thomas » Mon Aug 18, 2008 11:28 pm

Victorwine wrote:Thomas,
As far as enhancing the color I always thought specific tannins will link or bond with anthocyanin molecules therefore making them stable and hence enhancing color. The presence of certain enzymes will just aid or “help out” these reactions to take place.

Salute


Victor,

I'm not sure it's that clear cut. Tannins bind with anthocyanins, but tannins increase the brown color component more so than the red, which is why Pinot Noir, with high tannins, often has less red color (more tea like) than you'd think it should have after cold soaking--just another reason that variety is such a bitch to work with!

The role tannins play on color, especially red, may be more as a stabilizer through co-pigmentation than as an extractor.

In any case, tannin's role always includes making an impact on wine astringency.
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