Bringing up tannins
I have been making wine kits for three years and want to boost complexity and tannin levels. I have added some complexity by blending different kits and using French wood barrels, but I haven’t resolved the tannin issue. How can I add more tannin?
The best source of tannin for quality wine is always the original grapes, and to a lesser extent, the oak barrels in which you store your wine. If you cannot either grow or obtain grapes that give you enough tannin for the style or wine type you’re trying to achieve, you certainly may experiment with some of the tannin preparations available through winery supply companies. Derived either from grape or oak tannin, they are marketed to and sometimes used by commercial winemakers with challenges like yours.
Though I’m not a tannin user in my own wines (being blessed with great California vineyards helps), from what I have been able to glean from the industry “grapevine,” it does seem like the current tannin products on the market are constantly changing and are increasingly being made with fine winemaking in mind. Much like non-coopered oak products, tannin preparations seem like they have increased in quality over the years and though never a complete replica of or substitute for the real thing, can deliver some benefits to a winemaker. I would strongly caution you to be conservative in your approach, however. A little added tannin can go a very long way; even though quality and solubility of these products have increased, they still are powerful molecules that can have a big sensory impact, perhaps a negative one, on a wine.
I suggest you start by doing a little research yourself, beginning with your local winemaking supply source and then branching onto the Internet. Suppliers like Laffort and Ferco and their U.S.-based distributors like Scott Labs (www.scottlab.com) and Gusmer (www.gusmerenterprises.com) carry product information about their offerings.