Adding Tannins to Wine - Using Sacrificial, Cellaring and Finishing Tannins


by The Beverage People


Tannins generally account for 0.01-0.15% of the juice from grapes, making them a small but powerful presence in the juice and, eventually, the wine.

About Grape Tannins

Tannins are complex phenolic compounds that can play a most significant role in wine mouthfeel. Tannins are a source of astringency. Astringency is that drying-out effect that you get on your tongue and in your mouth when you drink dark, black tea. Astringency enhances mouthfeel by making it feel as if the wine has more viscosity, even though it doesn’t. Sometimes high tannin levels can make it seem like there is an extremely fine powder in the wine. Tannins also produce bitterness that gives a wine some of its flavor. This combination of astringency and bitterness combine to give wines their lingering aftertaste, still noticeable after the wine has been swallowed.

Red grapes are usually higher in tannins relative to white grapes, which may have low enough tannin content that it might not even be perceptible. The relatively high tannin content of grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah is what makes them so much better suited to producing more mouth filling and long lived wines. The lower tannin content of most white grapes makes them more refreshing to drink, but also quicker to age and lose their vibrancy.


There are several points in the winemaking process where you may want to supplement the tannins in your grapes with professional grade tannin products for enhancement of your wine.  This discussion explains those products and their usage in three functional groups:


Sacrificial Fermentation Tannins


The primary role of these enological tannins is not to add anything, but rather to give themselves up as ‘sacrificial tannins’. Added early in the fermentation cycle, these tannins combine with proteins and other grape components and precipitate out into the lees. Because these enological tannins are available for those reactions, natural grape tannins are preserved and are able to combine with grape anthocyanins to create optimally stable color.  In general, these tannins provide improved color, protection against oxidation, and improved mouthfeel.


Available Fermentation Tannin Products


FT Rouge Soft - Red Wine Fermentation Tannin

Derived from the exotic South American Quebracho tree. Used in Red wines to:

Rate of Use: 5 – 25 g per 100 lbs fruit

How to Use: Add after the onset of yeast fermentation, such as at first punch-down. Sprinkle powder directly over the must.


FT Blanc Soft - White and Rosé Wine Fermentation Tannin

Derived from oak gall nuts. Used in White and Rosé wines to:

Rate of Use: 1 - 3 g per 100 lbs fruit

How to Use: Add as powder to the juice in the fermenter, stirring thoroughly or add to juice after it is racked off gross fruit lees.


Oak Alternatives - Usually for Red Wine


Available in French or American Oak, Medium or Dark Toast.

Rate of Use: Up to 3 oz. in 5 gallons of wine or 100 lbs. of must

How to Use: To provide sacrificial tannins, sprinkle on top of the cap and mix directly into red wine fermentor during the first few days of fermentation.


Cellaring Tannins


After the harvest season is over, winemakers start thinking about the future. The fermentations are done, everything is sulfited, and the wine is in storage, so what comes next? At this point, we all stop and ask ourselves... Do I need oak or tannins? At The Beverage People, we like to say “winemaker’s choice” when asked something like that because you get the final say on these decisions. Our job is to help you understand how you can use our products to turn a good wine into a great wine!

The cellaring tannins can play an important role in the development of wine throughout the aging period in the cellar. Cellaring Tannins used during wine aging help protect against oxidation while enhancing tannin structure and aiding in color stability. They can improve the likelihood that your wine will improve during the storage period, as well as adding nuances of flavor and mouthfeel to wines that may not be aged in barrels.


Available Cellaring Tannin Products


EnartisTan Uvaspeed Grape Tannin

Adds body while optimizing fruity notes and improving mouthfeel. Uvaspeed grape tannin is produced from the skins of unfermented wine grape varietals. It is particularly useful for adding body to ciders made from apples that lack tannins.

Rate of UseUp 1/4 - 3/4 gram per gallons, or to 200 ppm, as optimized by sensory evaluation.

How to Use: Dissolve at a 1:10 ratio in water, wine/cider or juice while continuously mixing. While it is recommended to add Uvaspeed during the early stages of wine/cider maturation, it can be added as late as 1-2 weeks prior to bottling.


Oak Alternatives - Cubes, Stave, and Barrels


American or French oak pieces that have been subjected to various levels of toasting. Both cubes and staves can be added directly to wine without first being sanitized.

Medium toast is a less intense toasting which keeps the oak closer to its natural flavor - woodier and more tannic. 

Dark toast provides more flavor complexity due to higher levels of wood breakdown products such as vanillin, and contains less tannin.

American oak typically has a lighter, fruitier character with flavors of coconut.

French oak has a somewhat richer, spicier character with notes of cinnamon or nutmeg.

Cubes and staves stop contributing flavor after three months in your wine, though most of the flavor is extracted in the first month. They cannot be re-used.


Oak Cubes

Options Available: Available in French Oak, Medium or Medium Plus Toast.

Red Wine Usage Rates

White Wine Usage Rates

Contact Time

How to Use: Add to carboys, tanks, or neutral barrels during aging. After a minimum of 1 month, you may rack off (or leave the cubes in until the next racking).  Use of a nylon mesh bag that fits your aging container may maker removal easier, but is not required.


Oak Cubes

Oak Staves

Options Available:

Available in French or American Oak; Light, Medium, Medium Plus, and Dark Toast.


Rate of Use:

WineStix - One stick treats 5 gallons wine.

How to Use:

WineStix - Add stave to a sanitized carboy before racking the wine into the carboy.  Allow 2-3 months contact for full extraction.


Oak Staves

Oak Barrels

Options Available: Available French or American Oak. For French Oak, different toast levels available upon request.

Rate of Use: One week storage time per gallon of capacity.

How to Use: Soak up, drain, fill with wine.  Click here for a complete Wine Barrel Care Guide.


Oak Barrels

Finishing Tannins


Fine oak tannins can be used later in wine aging to impart character that may be lacking from the grapes or barrel. Especially when derived from quality French oak, these tannins can impart welcome notes of coconut and vanilla, possibly even a perception of sweetness, to a finished wine.


Available Finishing Tannin Products

Tannin Riche

For red or white wines. Derived from 100% toasted French Oak. Used to:

Rate of Use

White Wine: 1/2 – 1 gram per 5 gallons

Red Wine: 1/2 – 3 grams per 5 gallons

How to Use: Mix powder thoroughly with wine during a racking. Add no later than 3 weeks before bottling.


Oak Alternatives

Cubes, Staves, Barrels

As described in “Cellaring Tannins” above.