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Tannat is a red wine grape, historically grown in South West France in the Madiran AOC and is now one of the most prominent grapes in Uruguay, where it is considered the "national grape".[1] It is also grown in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Peru, and in Italy's Puglia region where it is used as a blending grape.[2] In the US state of Virginia, there are small experimental plantings of the vine, and plantings in California have increased dramatically in the first years of the 21st Century.

Tannat wines produced in Uruguay are usually quite different in character from Madiran wines, being lighter in body and lower in tannins. It is also used to make Armagnac and full bodied rosé. In France, efforts to solve the harsh tannic nature of the grape lead to the development of the winemaking technique known as micro-oxygenation.

Tannat is normally found in the Basque-influenced regions of France near the Pyrénées. The wine is notable for its very high tannin levels and is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet franc and Fer to soften the astringency and make it more approachable. In addition to Madiran, Tannat is also produced in Uraguay, Tursan and Béarn. Modern winemaking in the region has begun to emphasize the fruit more and utilize oak aging to help soften the tannins.[3] Now the wines typically spend about 20 months in oak prior to release.[4]

A French Tannat is characterized by its firm, tannic structure with raspberry aromas and the ability to age well. They often have a deep dark color with high level of alcohol. The rosés produced in Irouléguy go through very limited maceration time with the skins in order to keep the wines from getting too tannic. The resulting wines are typically full bodied and very fruity. In Bearn both red and roses are produced from blends that include 60% Tannat and a 40% mix of Manseng noir, Fer and Courbu noir.[5]

In 1990, Madiran winemaker Patrick Ducournau experimented with adding controlled amounts of oxygen aeration into Tannat while fermenting and ended up developing the modern winemaking process of micro-oxygenation.[6]


The Tannat vine was introduced to Uruguay by Basque settlers, especially Pascual Harriague, in the 19th century. Along with the Manseng vine it quickly started to flourish in its new home. Today it is often blended with Pinot noir and Merlot and is made in a variety of styles including those reminiscent of Port and Beaujolais. From Uruguay the vine spread to Argentina and from there flying winemakers promoted the grape's resurgence in California at the end of the 20th century.[4]

Plantings of Tannat (also known in Uruguay as Harriague) have been increasing in Uruguay each year as that country's wine industry develops. The Tannat wines produced here are characterized by more elegant and softer tannins and blackberry fruit notes. Vineyards in Uruguay have begun to distinguish between the "old vines" that are descendants from the original cuttings brought over from Europe and the new clones being produced today. The newer vines tend to produce more powerful wines with higher alcohol levels but less acidity and complex fruit characteristics. Some wineries utilize both vines to make blends.[3]

United States

In the late 19th century, University of California-Berkeley agriculture professor Eugene W. Hilgard imported the Tannat vine from Southwest France and began to grow it in the University's vineyards. The grape did not receive much attention until the late 20th century, when South American varietals of the grape variety began to receive international acclaim. In the 1990s several plantings began to appear in California in the Paso Robles and Santa Cruz Mountains AVAs with such producers as Bonny Doon Vineyard using it in blends with Cabernet franc and Tablas Creek Vineyard using it in conjunction with Rhone varietals. Other Californian wine producers began using it in Meritage blends and also with their Sangiovese and Syrah wines. Vineyards in Arizona, Oregon and Virginia began importing cuttings from California. In 2002, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives approved Tablas Creek Vineyard's petition to add Tannat to the list of grape varieties that could be made into a varietal wine.[7]

See Also:

Home Wine Page
History of Wine
Classification of Wines
Science of Taste
The Science of Wine Aroma
About the Acids in Wine
Polyphenols (Tannins) in Wine
Oak in Wines
The Basic Wine Pairing Rules
Science of Food and Wine Pairing
Sugars in Wine
About Wine Tasting
Wine Tasting Terms
Storage of Wine
Aging of Wine
Wine Acessories
Headaches from Wine
About a Wine Sommelier

Notes and references

  1. L. Luxner "Small Uruguayan wineries making their mark" Wines & Vines Jan 1st, 2001
  2. Apulia wine region of Italy
  3. Oz Clarke Encyclopedia of Grapes pg 241 Harcourt Books 2001
  4. J. Robinson (ed) "The Oxford Companion to Wine" Third Edition pg 679 Oxford University Press 2006
  5. J. Robinson Vines, Grapes & Wines pg 203-204 Mitchell Beazley 1986
  6. J. Robinson (ed) "The Oxford Companion to Wine" Third Edition pg 442 Oxford University Press 2006
  7. L. Alley ATF Adds Tannat to List of Approved Grape Varieties Wine Spectator September 14, 2002
  8. USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service RED WINE TYPE GRAPES ACREAGE REPORT April 13, 2008


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