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All podcast music: “Café connection” by morgantj / CC BY 3.0, ©2009 – Licensed under Creative Commons 
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Apr 22, 2019

Tannat is one of the gems of southwest France – a tannic, acidic, flavorful grape that makes wines packed with complexity (and huge health benefits!). This show takes you from the origins of the grape to the changes it needed to survive in modern times to the glory it’s achieving in Uruguay and its potential in California. A dorky show but a fascinating one, nonetheless!



  • Mainly grown in Southwest France in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mtns and Uruguay
  • Also grown in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Peru, South Africa, Puglia (blending), Siciily, British Columbia and the US
  • Tannat is a great value! A great bottle of Tannat will is priced between $15-$30.  


  • First mentioned in Madiran in 1783
  • Name from dialect in Béarn, France: means “colored like tan” for dark berries, tannins
  • Related to a bunch of grapes that are in the Pyrenees-Atlantique region – Manseng Noir is probably the closest relative

Vineyard/Grape character:

  • Vigorous, needs trellising to resist bunch rot (botrytis), mid-ripening and ripens reliably
  • Big bunches, small to medium grapes with thick skins
  • Many seeds – 2x as many as regular grapes – higher polyphenols in the wine.
  • Hard to de-stem because of hard wood
  • Recent research makes the case for oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs) as the source of red wine’s health benefits. Tannat is the grape with the greatest concentration

 Winemaking/vineyard management to soften:

  • Vineyard:low yields, picking later, different soil types, new clones
  • In the winery: oak, concrete eggs, micro-oxygenation, extended aging, macerationn


  • Tannic, acidic, dark, with either red (raspberry) or black fruit (plum) with black licorice, vanilla, dark chocolate, espresso, and smoke notes and a long finish

 French Tannat

  • Basque-influenced regions of France near Pyrenees: Madiran, Irouléguy, Tursan, Béarn
  • Madiran: 60-80% of the blend, most do 100%. Red fruit, very strong tannin, high acid -- blended with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Fer to soften astringency.
  • Saint-Mont (min 60% of blend) – with Cab Franc, Cab Sauv
  • Irouléguy: Rosé – not much maceration b/c it will get too tannic
  • Béarn: 60% Tannat and a 40% mix Manseng Noir, Courbu Noir


  • 4,408 acres/1784 ha, 22% of Uruguay’s vineyards
  • Blending with Pinot noir and Merlot for softness and total balance
  • We discuss old vines v. newer clones
  • Best region: Canelones
  • Flavors: Softer tannins, black fruit


  • Grown in Paso Robles and Santa Cruz Mtns – Bonny Doon Vineyards, Tablas Creek, Joseph Swan sold it as a standalone
  • 2002: Tablas Creek petitions TTB to add Tannat to list of varieties for varietal wine


Food:  Needs high protein and high fat to the table to soften the high tannins

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