Everything But Red

Club Write-up: Tannin

Tim's Wine

Tannin. It is something that is mentioned in the write-up of almost every red wine, but I often find customers are confused about what tannin is and why it is important in some wines. This month, the selections look at two wines and how tannin affects the structure of the wine and potential aging. My first pick is a variety that is known for a savage level of tannins, but masterfully crafted by expatriate Frenchman Yannic Rousseau. The second selection is a Merlot, which is often considered a low tannin variety, but when grown in the right conditions, this is not the case. The Truchard’s excellent example will prove just how structured this variety can be when properly farmed.

Hopefully after enjoying both wines, you will have a much better idea about what tannin is and the role it plays in the structure of wine.

2019 Yannick Rousseau Tannat – $35

Tannat is a variety that is rarely found in the vineyards of California but is famous as the base of the wines from the Madiran region in Southwest France.

I should note that Yannick feels that micro-oxygenation is a gimmick and prefers to soften the tannins in Tannat using classic methods of extended skin contact, barrel aging and racking. When you are ready to serve this wine, I would encourage you to decant it for up to an hour. Then when you pour the first glass, it reveals a brooding nose of Luxardo cherries, cooked cranberries, dark chocolate fudge, tangerine peels and cloves. The feel on the palate is firm, with a deep sense of fruit framed by a muscular tannins that stretch this wine into a long finish. There are 235 cases of this wine made. Drink from 2021 to 2031.

2016 Truchard Merlot – $25

While the Truchards may be pioneers in the Carneros region, grape growing and farming run deeper through their veins than establishing this vineyard in 1972. They produced 781 cases of this vintage. You will want to decant this wine for a half hour before serving. Then the nose delivers a complex combination of fresh red cherries, red currants, cedar, bay leaf, and dried basil.

On the palate it has surprisingly obvious but integrated tannins, a solid core of fruit and nice length. Drink 2021 to 2026 with grilled pork chops, meatloaf or a New York strip steak.

Download Full Club Write-up

Basque Chicken

This classic dish of the Basque country works wonderfully with any moderate wine with moderate tannins. I found this recipe from Anthony Bourdain on the Food & Wine website and it works great. Many versions of this dish also include a few slices of cured ham as well, sliced and added while building the sauce.


  • 1 whole chicken, about 4 lb, cut into 8 pieces
  • Salt Pepper Pinch of cayenne pepper or piment d’Espelètte
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into fine julienne
  • 2 green bell peppers, cut into fine julienne
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 16 ounces canned Italian plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup light chicken stock or broth
  • 3 sprigs of flat parsley, finely chopped
  • Rice pilaf


Season the chicken all over with salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Heat the large pot over medium-high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the butter. When the butter has foamed and subsided, add the chicken, skin side down, and brown on that side only. Remove the chicken and set aside on the plate. Add the peppers and onion to the pot and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook for about 10 minutes, then add the tomatoes and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Stir in the wine, scraping, scraping—as always—to get the good stuff up.

Cook until the wine is reduced by half, then add the water and the bouillon. Return the chicken to the pot, making sure to add all the juice on the plate. Cover the pot and cook on low heat for about 25 minutes. Remove the chicken to the platter. Crank up the heat to high and reduce the sauce for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve with rice pilaf.