What the F*** are tannins?

Wine snobs all over the world talk about tannins to describe the wines they love, but every average wine drinker is left thinking, "What they fuck are you talking about, what the fuck are tannins?" Tannins are really easy to come to grips with, and one of the best ways to figure out why you like or do not like a wine. Having a base understanding for what tannins are will open up so many wines to you, and help you find the wines that you fall in love with.

So what the fuck are tannins?

Simply put, when you drink wine, tannins are what give your mouth that dry feeling, a slight sensation of cottonmouth. They are naturally occurring on the grape skins. Wines that have allowed the skins of the grape to sit longer will have stronger tannins, and stronger tannins will dry up your mouth. Some find it a pretty pleasant sensation, other less so, its really up to you. Knowing that sensation, and how it got there, will help you get a better idea of how much you will like a wine with strong tannins (ie Cabernet Sauvignon) or not. 

If you want to stay away from the tannins though, then white wines are your go to. While not completely absent on occasion, they will have spent little to no time in contact with the skin so you can be pretty safe. 

So why do winemakers make stuff with high tannins if they are unpleasant?

Tannins act like an antioxidant for the wine, helping to protect it over time. The tannins will calm down over time, allowing the wine to become smoother, and change without turning into vinegar. So wines high in tannins may be better to hold on to for a couple of years yet. They will become a lot more fun to drink, that is if you are in to collecting wines.

So what does it mean for a wine I'm about to drink?

Depending on the occasion, you definitely want to know the tannin content of the wine you are about to drink. Wines with high tannin content are more likely to give you a massive headache the next day, probably worse than you would usually give three or four glasses credit for. If you are having a pretty lively time, partying, dancing the night away, stay away from tannins. If its at a dinner with a juicy red steak, bring on that big bad Cabernet!