In-Depth Wine Knowledge: Tannins and CedarCreek Red Wines
As the weather grows colder, a complex glass of red wine sounds even more appealing on a snowy evening. Red wine varietals such as Syrah and Pinot Noir are the perfect pairing to cozy sweaters and warm fire-sides. The structure of these red wines, especially in our CedarCreek Estate Syrah 2015 and Platinum Block 4 Pinot Noir 2014, makes them particularly complex and comes directly from the tannins of the grapes. But how exactly does a tannin work to make these wines stand out? We thought we’d share a bit of wine knowledge on how tannins affect the taste of red wines.
Tannins are a naturally occurring polyphenol found in plants, seeds, bark, wood, leaves, and fruit skins. Tannins are typically expressed as a bitter taste on the tongue and a drying sensation in the mouth. The level of dryness and bitterness results from the winemaker’s choices of fermentation and aging, as well as the intended cellaring potential of the wine. Much of the tannic quality of red wines is determined by how long the juice of the grapes is soaked with the skins, seed, and stems. This process is implied in the word itself, as “tannin” derives from the process of using plants to tan leather. Think of a soft leather couch you love to curl up on in winter or your favourite suede boots – tannins are often associated with the feel of fabrics due to the textural sensation on the tongue. Tannins can feel silky, velvety, grainy, and/ or grippy.
For our Estate Syrah 2015, the grapes were fermented for 24 days on skins in stainless steel tanks followed by 14 months aging in French oak barriques. Our Syrah is 100% harvested from our Haynes Creek Vineyard in Osoyoos, British Columbia, making it a single vineyard wine. It occupies a unique position in this mostly-flat vineyard as the six acres of Syrah are planted on a westward slope of 15° that runs steeply down towards Osoyoos Lake. At mid-day, the heat is oppressive, yet Syrah vines love the heat, basking in the west-facing sun. The heat of this 2015 vintage, along with the fermentation process, are reflected in the tannins on the palette that structure the big rich, ripe fruit flavours and extends the length of the finish of this wine. A warmed Camembert with a Currant and Cherry compote is the perfect appetizer for this wine. You can enjoy our Syrah now or cellar until 2020 to discover a new level of tannic complexity.
On the other hand, in our Platinum Block 4 Pinot Noir 2014, the well-structured tannins are partially drawn out by using whole clusters of grapes (25% in this vintage). Whole cluster fermentation can only be done in years with near-perfect growing conditions to ensure that the stems do not impart a bitter taste on the wine. 2014 was a textbook year, and the resulting texture of this wine is particularly firm, yet the whole cluster fermentation adds a beautiful floral note to the wine. After 13 months aging in French oak barrels, the resulting wine has a lush, velvety sensation on the palate complimented by rich dark fruit and spice characters, but with plenty of structure on the finish. A warming squash and root vegetable winter meal pairs well with this wine. Enjoy now or cellar until 2021.
More from the Journal...
Video: A day with CedarCreek's Winemaker, Taylor Whelan, visiting our Desert Ridge and Haynes Creek vineyards in Osoyoos, BC.
Winemaking History in the Okanagan: Join us as we take a look back at winemaking history in our own backyard, from Kelowna's first winery to the first Okanagan Fall Wine Fest and more!