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Celebrate Tannat!

Yesterday, April 14th, Tannat Day was celebrated around the world.

Obviously, I’m late to the “Celebrate Tannat” party, so why even bother, right?

Tell me honestly – have you ever forgotten to wish a happy birthday to a friend on the actual birthday day, only to call the next day, apologize, and still wish a happy birthday? If you have never done that, you can probably skip this post altogether as “too late”. For those who had been in this movie once or twice, let’s still celebrate the Tannat grape.

Tannat is an interesting grape due to a number of reasons. First, this is one of the most tannic grapes out there, with one of the highest levels of phenolic compounds in seeds and skin (you can check this article if you would like to get some actual scientific data), competing for the leadership here with Sagrantino grapes from Umbria in Italy. Second, Tannat’s story is very similar to the story of its very close cousin, Malbec.

I’m not implying that Tannat and Malbec are genetically related. But they share similar lifecycle stories. Both grapes originate from the cradle of the French wine world, Southwest France, also known as Sud Ouest. Once upon a time, Malbec used to be the king of Cahors, and Tannat was ruling in Madiran. Both grapes managed to lose their crowns and were reincarnated in full glory in South America – Malbec found kingship in Argentina, and Tannat became an uncontested star of Uruguayan winemaking.

While Tannat found its new home in Uruguay, the grape is actually growing all around the world. But Uruguay is not just the new home. The interesting part about Tannat’s story in Uruguay is that the local winemakers found a way to tame its powerful tannins and acidity, and are able to produce delicious single-grape Tannat wines. However, Tannat can be found in Australia, Chile, Argentina, France, California, Oregon, Texas, and many other winemaking regions, where it is often used as a part of the blend.

While working on this post, I decided to check how often I mentioned Tannat one way or the other in my blog. From almost 1,500 posts, 34 posts contain the word “Tannat”. For comparison, 453 posts contain the words “Cabernet Sauvignon”, 13 times difference. However, just looking at the website word count, the word “Tannat” was mentioned in the blog about 700 times, and Cabernet Sauvignon about 2,500, less than 4 times difference.

Never mind the word count. As we said before, Tannat is the star of Uruguayan winemaking. Also, if you care to look for them, Madiran wines made somewhat of a comeback as of late, and Tannat is a major grape there. You can also find single-grape Tannat wines in Oregon, Texas, and Virginia. Speaking of Oregon, I have to mention the wines of Troon Vineyard. Craig Camp, the head winemaker at Troon, makes wonders with Tannat, from beautiful full-bodied organic reds to sparkling Tannat wines – Pet tanNat is definitely the wine to experience.

And then there is blending. If you would care to look at the list of grapes in the blend, lots of red wines from around the world have some amount of Tannat. Sometimes it is only 1% or 2%, but this might be enough to add acidity and tannins to the blend, to make the wine shine a little bit more.

Playing solo or in a minor supporting role, Tannat is well worth celebrating. Whether you celebrated Tannat yesterday or not, give this grape a chance – you might well like it in your glass.


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