Inspired by my recent podcast episode, this month I am unveiling a lesser known red wine grape called Tannat. Although the name corresponds to its strong tannins, winemakers can and often do mellow down Tannat wines. The wine’s intense tannins are softened by either blending it with lighter wines, using micro-oxygenation, or other techniques.
The Taste Test
Tannat wines are typically dark, inky and bursting with rich flavor. These aren’t wimpy wines. If you like wines with grip and gravitate to Cabernet Sauvignons and Syrahs (aka Shiraz), you might have a new best friend called Tannat. Depending on the winemaker’s style and where in the world the grapes are grown, the flavors in the wine can vary quite a bit. Regardless of style and terroir, a Tannat based wine will be layered with spice, black fruits, earthiness, berries and undeniable structure.
Where to Find Tannat
Southwest France is the original home to the Tannat grape. Look for the regionally labeled red blends of Madiran, Cahors, Bearn, and Irouleguy, among others. Brilliant examples of Tannat are coming out of South American countries like Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil. The sticker price is another reason why you might find Tannat is your new best friend. South American pricing for Tannat is less than $20 a bottle. A few US producers, found mostly in California and Virginia, also demonstrate Tannat’s worthiness for fine wine. Expect those bottlings to be around the $30 to $40 price point.
Once you’ve tasted a few examples and found the Tannat of your wildest wine dreams, buy extra bottles and experiment with the wine’s age-ability. We can’t often mature wine — only about 1% of all wine produced worldwide is meant to age. The bigger and beastlier the Tannat wine, the greater the chance it will develop into something remarkable and worthy of savoring.
If the Tannat-talk peaked your interest, you may also like these wines and recipes.
Stephanie Davis is a Certified Wine Educator (CWE), Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Certified Advanced Level III, a French Wine Scholar (FWS), and Level 2 Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. Follow Stephanie on Instagram @wineheroine and Twitter @thewineheroine. Tune in to Stephanie’s weekly podcast Wine Two Five.