help a bro out with tannin descriptors

Thought I would pose a question that has bothered more for some time. In my mind, tannins are more of a mouthfeel/textural thing to me. Thus, it helps when I see descriptors that say fine grained/coarse/silky/velvety/drying/etc. I did not think that they actually have any “flavors” but more of a “feel”. So what in the heck do people mean when they put in their notes things like sweet tannins, ripe tannins, and other “taste” descriptors for tannin structure? Are they implying softer/silkier tannins structure over more coarse tannins that one may get in under-ripe grapes and seeds? Help a brother out!

Yes. The tannin from less ripe vintages can be very harsh. Sometimes these settle down - the wines may throw a lot of sediment and then drink fairly well a few years later. But usually the sediment is very bitter. Riper vintages have tannins that besides being less astringent have a much sweeter taste to them. Maybe the wines due to their ripeness have a higher residual sugar and that contributes to it but at least for me there is a noticeable sweetness to the lingering finish in these wines. The typical comment is there is phenolic maturity or phenolic ripeness. What this means exactly, I don’t know - but the concept is that as the grapes ripen the polyphenols in the grape skins change character and taste. That’s my simplistic understanding of it.

Is it really the tannin that have a sweeter taste, or the overall experience of tannins in balance with the other components of the wine?

I think it is both. For what it is worth, the first time I read “sweet tannins” I thought what are you talking about - tannins aren’t sweet. That was probably 10 years ago. A lot of tasting later and I think there is such a thing - there still is the mouth drying puckering sensation but at the same time a bit of sweetness as opposed to harsh bitter astringency from less ripe vintages. Of course this is all IMHO!