By Dawn Dolan
“Finishing tannin use is on the rise, and I think that many winemakers are interested in this topic,” says Sabrina Lueck, Assistant Enology Instructor and Director of Wine Sales for Walla Walla Community College.
“American wine consumption is rapidly rising, especially in the premium red blend tier,” Lueck says, “and many producers are turning to non-barrel alternatives in the ageing process to produce a premium product while using cellar space efficiently.”
Lueck will be making a presentation on the origins and impact of both condensed and ellagic tannins in wine at the North Coast Wine Industry Expo session on Phenolic Secrets: Exploring Finishing Tannins in Maturation and Blending, and she’ll be discussing the topic with winemakers panelists and audience.
Lueck has direct, hands-on experience with finishing tannins, and she hopes the audience will feel free to ask questions and learn from the experience she has gained, as well as the experience of the other winemakers who are featured in this panel.
A taste test will be featured at this session, providing an authentic demonstration of how the finishing tannins can work. Lueck notes, “We’re hopeful that the discussion will provide some clarity for winemakers about how these products behave in a wine, and how they can impact wine quality.”
Despite the advantages tannin products can provide, from a marketing perspective “finishing tannins and oak alternatives don’t have the same romance as barrels,” Lueck recognizes, and the winery could potentially lose the wine consumer, who is used to hearing more seductive talk of the properties of French or American oak, and what toast levels can do.
“We have a ways to go with regards to public marketing on tannin products,” she notes. From the standpoint of the winery, she thinks that marketing this technique to their consumers could be tricky. However, offering up one way to educate the customer, she suggests that “wine enthusiasts may be interested in learning about tannins, and tasting trials at wine club events with producers that they trust.”
Marketing is not the main theme of the session, looking at the topic from the perspective of product content and use will be the focus, and wine samples will provide an actual comparable taste test.
“We will compare the phenolic and aromatic content of a few different products, taste trials, and discuss product use with winemakers in the regional industry,” Lueck notes. “We think that the trial tasting will be fun and enlightening.”
It is unclear exactly how many winemakers are currently using finishing tannins in their repertoire of winemaker techniques, but the conference session was created in response to an increased level of interest, and to help winemakers improve their knowledge of the subject.
BSG Wine, which distributes winemaker ingredients and products around the country, is the sponsor of this event, and the panel also includes winemakers Adolfo Alarcon of Trinchero Family Wine Estates, Richard Mansfield of Winery Exchange, and Bernard Pradel, of Toasted Oak Company.