Let’s talk tannins
Tannin is a naturally occurring compound found in seeds, bark, leaves and fruit skins. It’s what gives certain red wines that grippy, mouth-drying feeling when you take a sip. That doesn’t sound too pleasant, but tannins are necessary if a red wine is to age. Luckily, they’re nearly always softened when you drink a red wine with food. Here are three wines with different levels of tannin – see which one suits you best… If you don’t want anything to do with tannins and you prefer your reds soft, fresh and fruity, then the Stellenbosch Hills Polkadraai Pinotage/Merlot 2017 (R44,50) is up your alley. It’s got a teensy bit of sugar, which makes it fatter and rounder. I love the combination of pinotage and merlot, which delivers a delicious mouthful of ripe black fruit with some smoky, spicy notes. At this price, I’ll buy a case! A wine with smooth tannins – often described as “velvety” – is easier for most people to handle. The Vondeling Monsonia 2015 (R215) is a blend of mainly shiraz with some other Rhône Valley grapes. It’s a delicious, black-pepper spice bomb in a glass. The fruit seems to wrap around the tannins, giving the wine a plush, rich mouth-feel. The tannins also add terrific length to this lovely wine. So those are the two more gentle options… If you want something big, bold and utterly brilliant, you need to try the Tokara Director’s Reserve Red 2013 (R400). It’s actually a sin to drink this wine now when it has years of potential ahead (thanks to those tannins), but if you can’t wait then open a bottle for a special occasion, sit back and indulge in the refined black fruit and the elegant, endless finish.