Tannat: A Friend with Healthy Benefits

Now here is a grape you may have never encountered before.  But don ’t worry, it’s not because you’ve been living under a rock.  Because these wines are so far under the radar, very few of you may be aware of what makes this grape so special.  But first, we’ll start off with the fact that in one way or another we’ve all been told that wine contains certain elements that have been found to benefit our health.  Well, believe it or not, the theories behind this were not just created as propaganda to influence people to drink more wine.  Not only has semi-extensive research been conducted for the past several years, it’s been said that wine was historically used for medicinal purposes as far back as 2,200 BC.


Now before transforming into mad scientist mode, let’s introduce you to this mystery varietal.  Tannat is a dark-skinned grape that produces notoriously tannic wines and tends to unveil its rural attributes more often than not. Originating from the Basque region of South West France and eventually becoming the signature wine for the village of Madiran, Tannat is produced as both a varietal wine and as an addition to blends.  Today, Tannat is planted throughout regions of the New World and has become particularly established in the Latin country of Uruguay.

Interestingly enough, despite the usual Old World versus New World wine assumption, the irony is that because Tannat vines were brought to the New World in the 19th century pre-phylloxera in Europe, the older vines found in Uruguay are descendents of the originals while Madiran was one of many appellations to be uprooted and replanted with American rootstocks.  The end result is that Uruguayan Tannat tends to have more acidity, refined tannin, and elegant blackberry fruit than its Old World cousin in Madiran.  That being said, the quality of New World Tannat has increased with each vintage while sadly the wines of Madiran have gradually become more and more of a distant memory from the past.

And now for the geeky part…Throughout the years, experts all over the world have conducted an abundance of studies on red grapes and found that they contain polyphenols, such as resveratrol, which are anti-oxidizing chemicals that are believed to be highly beneficial for blood vessels and directly contribute to longer life spans.  Amongst the most noteworthy research on the subject has been that of cardiovascular expert Roger Corder of the William Harvey Research Institute in London.  According to Corder, procyanidin is the most biologically active of all polyphenols and is found in thick-skinned grapes that have a high skin-to-pulp ratio.  Tannat just so happens to have the highest ratio of skin to pulp, bestowing the grape with a considerable amount of procyanidins and making it one of the most beneficial wines you could drink.  Any proof to this theory?  As a matter of fact, further studies have shown that regions with a prevalent consumption of Tannat have been found to have noticeably higher life expectancy rates.

But whether you are a believer or find that you don’t really buy all of this wine and health jargon, one thing can be taken from this.  Whether it’s based on the interest of science or just the sheer happiness of having these delicious wines, drinking Tannat WILL make you live longer.  Well, I guess there’s really only one way to test out this theory.  So drink up and cheers to your health!


About juju (57 Articles)
wine extraordinaire, world traveler, animal lover, indie music fanatic :D

4 Comments on Tannat: A Friend with Healthy Benefits

  1. Uruguayan tannats can be hard to find at your local wineshop. Here’s an on-line wine purveyor that has a nice selection – http://www.taste-vino.com/club.

  2. Total wine has Tannats and Tannat blends from both Madiran, France as well as Uruguay. The are quite similar with the French generally less expensive, but Uruguay has better blends. The Pisano family is famous in Uruguay, like Catena in Mendoza, Argentina. Richard_fishbein@yahoo.com

  3. Donna Rene Johnston // March 23, 2014 at 5:31 pm // Reply

    Many domestic wineries are not producing lovely Tannats. Bending Branch Winery in Texas, Imagery Estates in Sonoma uses Tannat in blends, and Tablas Creek also makes very nice Tannat wines.

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