Domenico Winery + Osteria

Uruguayan vineyard

Fascinating Wine Grapes 101: Tannat

There’s no doubt that French wine grapes are world-famous. Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot…and the list goes on. But, there’s one grape that isn’t as famous as the rest of its French family – that’s Tannat.

Now, Tannat may be lesser-known, but that doesn’t make it a shy grape. It’s big, it’s bold, and it’s mysterious. It also might be one of the healthiest wine grapes in the world. Clearly, there’s a ton to learn about this red wine grape. Let’s learn everything there is to know about Tannat!

The History of Tannat

Tannat may be French by nature, but it’s Uruguayan by nurture. Born in the Basque region of Southern France, Tannat existed in vineyards since the 17th century (and potentially even earlier than that.) The grape made its way to the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, in the village of Madiran, where it became the primary grape in Madiran red wines.

What put Tannat really on the map – though – was when it took a trip across seas. Basque immigrants brought the grape with them as they moved from France to South America in the 18th century, settling in Uruguay. There, Tannat thrived. Why? Well, it’s one robust grape that can handle the humidity and cooler coastal climate found in Uruguay.

Today, Uruguay grows more Tannat than any other place in the world. The grape grows in various terroirs, meaning not all Uruguayan Tannats are the same. There are plenty of expressions to try. Plus, Tannat also grows in other New World wine regions, such as California, Argentina, and Brazil.

Back in France, Tannat is very much still grown in Madiran. Of course, the wines differ from those grown in Uruguay. Nonetheless, Tannat must comprise 60% to 80% of Madiran wines according to its AOC laws.

Uruguayan vineyard

One of the Healthiest Wines in the World

We often hear about how wine, particularly red wine, is healthy for us. The wellness of wine usually comes down to one thing – antioxidants.

In wine grapes, polyphenols – found in the grape skins as well as the seeds – are the key source of antioxidants. Tannat’s dark, thick skins contribute to the wine’s deep, brooding color, and its incredible richness in antioxidants. In fact, it is one of the grapes with the highest concentration of polyphenols, making it one of the healthiest wines in the world.

To get more specific, Tannat has a high concentration of resveratrol, an antioxidant known to protect our bodies from illness and inflammation. Some researchers even believe that this grape’s antioxidant levels increase as it ages, meaning Tannat most likely never loses its health properties!

What Does Tannat Taste Like?

All this talk about Tannat’s history and benefits, but what does this wine even taste like?

Tannat is a grape that stands out from the crowd. Its thick skins make it a very tannic wine, that requires careful winemaking to make it elegant, as this grape’s tannins can easily become astringent. This sometimes requires blending Tannat with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or other red wines. Either way, Tannat’s tannins make it a fascinatingly structured wine, with a slightly spicy finish.

This grape is also known for its juiciness, along with its deep color and fruit character. Tannat has wonderful acidity, that highlights its plum, black cherry, and blackberry fruit flavors. As the wine ages, it can develop tobacco, leather, and an alluring smokiness.

It’s important to note that Tannat’s character relies heavily on where it grows. Uruguayan Tannats completely differ from Madiran wines. Generally speaking, Madiran wines are much more in your face than the Tannats from Uruguay. Many recognize Uruguayan Tannat to be more relaxed and ‘chill.’

Tannat grapes in Uruguay

Tannat Food Pairings

A big wine begs for bold dishes. Tannat’s high acidity, powerful tannins, and intense fruit character require food that can keep up with the intensity. Think roasted or stewed red meats, wild mushrooms, and strong aged cheeses (like Roquefort.)

In Uruguay, the wide variety of Tannat expressions means more versatility in food pairings. Lighter, younger styles are a striking pair for simply grilled meats, with spices to match Tannat’s naturally spicy-tobacco flavors.

No matter what kind of red wine drinker you are, there’s nothing to lose by trying out Tannat. It is thought-provoking wine, that also happens to be one of the healthiest wines in the world.

At Domenico Winery, we are excited to announce that our first Tannat is here! We are selling futures of this 2017 vintage prior to its debut, with 40% off until April 30th, 2022. Don’t miss out!