Home Wine Business Editorial The Effect of Oak and Grape Tannins in the First Year of...

The Effect of Oak and Grape Tannins in the First Year of Aging


By Barbara Barrielle

Marco Bertaccini
Marco Bertaccini

As country manager for AEB North America, Italian-born Marco Bertaccini, was challenged to expand AEB’s market beyond the yeast additions they had successfully marketed widely in Italy and throughout Europe.

“When we (AEB) arrived in North America in 2002, tannins were the new technology, and we have done well with it here,” explains Bertaccini.

A former winemaker, Bertaccini is driven to experiment with wine additives and the products he presents to his clients. To this end, in 2015, he received a ton of excess Pinot Noir grapes from Lodi that winemaker George Natsis donated for a bench trial. The trial would test several different tannin additives on one base wine, a control plus four batches treated with the different tannins, and then consistently taste the five samples throughout the year after bottling.

The Effect of Oak and Grape Tannins in the First Year of Aging

Natsis, a longtime customer of AEB, is a fan of tannins and was happy to help run the test. “First, it (tannin additives) gives you a controlled influence over the wine,” Says Natsis. “If compared to cellar technique, which is reliant on tying up tanks and fermenters to obtain a similar result, the use of tannins allows you to be more efficient throughout the harvest period, and it allows you to capture the finest nuances without compromising quality.”

George Natsis
George Natsis

For the bench trial, Bertaccini made the Pinot Noir and then, putting aside one batch as the control wine, added tannins imparting the following flavors to four additional examples; French Oak medium toast, American Oak medium toast, American Oak high toast, and grape skin tannins. All wines were treated the same and were aged in mixed barrels with the different tannin additions being the sole distinguishing factor.

After bottling the wines in Fall of 2017, Bertaccini opened the first of the test wines for the AEB holiday party later that year. Immediately, it was apparent that the control bottle, without any tannin additives, was the best wine of the group. It was vibrant and drinkable while the wine with the Protan Peel, or grape skin tannin additive was too dry and astringent and not pleasant to drink. The other three wines fell in the middle.

Throughout the year, Bertaccini and others who participated in the project at AEB, tasted the different bottles and made notes on the development of the wines. Recently, at the one-year mark, Bertaccini and those involved, tasted the five wines again.

“I like European style wines, rustic wines like those in Italy,” said Bertaccini. “What we found now was that the Protan Peel additive was by far the better wine. The tannin additive allowed extra maceration and the skins and seeds combined with the oak made for extra phenolics, flavanols and softer tannins.”

When asked if he expected the results found in Bertaccini’s bench test, Claudio Basei, Director of Winemaking and General Manager of Cacciatore Fine Wines, said, “the outcome is what I expected with the proanthocyanin (Protan Peel) tannin giving the best results in protecting aromas and color over time, buffering the natural oxidative processes.”

Claudio Basei
Claudio Basei

Basei is also a fan of tannin additives, “I use tannins across the board in my winemaking protocols, different types for different objectives. There are multiple benefits depending on the tannin being used; including preserving the endogenous tannins (the natural ones present in the wine) thanks to exogenous (the one added), which are precipitating in the complex tannin-protein. Tannin additives also fix and stabilize color, enhance polymerization (large chains-soft tannins), protect from oxidation, and increase structure.”

Basei summarizes his approach to winemaking using additives, “I always conceived and practiced my winemaking around ’old-tradition‘ concepts from the vineyard to the cellar, in which the latest technologies and biotechnologies are tools to maximize what nature gives us.”

Bertaccini looks forward to performing more tests to compare how tannins affect wine over time, using different varietals and other types of tannin additives.

George Natsis concurs, “I have been producing wine for 15 years, I was introduced to AEB’s products around 2004, as a means of curtailing the high cost of barrels to obtain a viable and cost-effective cased goods program. I am a firm believer in tannins and adjunct products to remain competitive in the wine industry. Technology has brought about benefits that were not otherwise available to wineries, therefore, I am versed in old world technique, but with modern day tech to accomplish production goals,” concludes Natsis.

Bertacinni will lead the session and trail tasting on The Effect of Oak and Grape Tannins in the First Year of Aging with winemakers Basei, Natsis, and Susy Vasquez at the 7th Annual North Coast Wine Industry Expo Conference and Trade Show held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Thursday December 6, 2018. For more information visit www.wineindustryexpo.com/conference.php.

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