Puckery, astringent, bitter are all terms to describe tannins in wines. Tannins are extremely important, adding to a wine’s taste, structure, and ageability. Depending on our palates and preferences, we may love them a lot or like them just a little.
The winemaker can do a lot to accent or tame tannins, but the chemical structure of the grape determines how difficult this task might be. Some grapes are almost bland, while others seem to live to attack the drinker’s mouth. Like chili peppers, big, harsher tannins may take a while to get used to.
Italy has some of the biggest tannic “monsters” – especially Sagrantino in the central Apennines, Aglianico farther south, and even mildly colored Nebbiolo in the foothills of the Alps, all of which can, untamed, have bruising personalities yet are capable of making beautiful, long-aging wines.
This all-Italian Dozen has a few of these big-tannin wines. So grab a bottle and pucker up!
2020 Petilia Fiano di Avellino ($19). Quite nice and very complex with aromas of Muscat on a diet – mangoes, yellow cherries, vanilla. It would go well with rich cheeses and ripe fruits.
2020 Donnachiara Greco di Tufo ($20). Simple but enjoyable with nice minerality and flavors of stone fruits.
2020 Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Bianco ($24). This blend has a nice fruitiness to go along with lightly spiced herbs and a hint of peach – a good quaffing wine.
2020 Scacciadiavoli Spoletino Trebbiano ($29). Very soft, almost delicate in structure with apple and citrus flavors.
NV Scacciadiavoli Italy Spumante Rosé Brut. Metallic, minerally, very creamy, and mellow with light tannins, delicate strawberries in the finish, and a good mousse. Nice.
2020 Garofoli “Farnio” Piceno Rosso ($12). A blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese, it has very fresh black and red raspberry fruitiness with a lean, tangy acidity and a touch of spritz in the finish.
2017 Petilia Irpinia Aglianico ($16). Very good with rich red and black fruits and firm tannins in the finish. Enjoyable now and will age well.
2019 Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Rosso ($16). Red and purple fruits with a raspberry touch in the finish and lots of walnutty tannins.
2015 Marco Felluga “Ronco dei Moreri” Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso ($18). Very well priced for this ageable Refosco from Italy’s Northeast – lean without being overly tannic with considerable minerality and tart cherry flavors.
2016 Villa Raiano Taurasi ($26). The Taurasi region produces perhaps the best expression of the Aglianico grape. Here, it is manifested in enjoyable cherry and cassis flavors with good barrel notes in the middle and pronounced, yet smooth, tannins at the end.
2017 Donnachiara Taurasi ($38). Very perfumed with dark cherry flavors, good acidity, tannins, and a powdery fruitiness in the finish.
2017 Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Sagrantino ($41). Sagrantino has the reputation as the most-tannic of the Italian reds, but here it has been softened with red almost creamy fruit and a very dry – not harsh – tannic finish. Quite enjoyable.
Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.
Feature photo credit: Scacciadiavoli