by Fred McMillin
for March 30, 1999


Tannin Talk


Tannins are compounds that pucker your mouth and can be somewhat bitter. In young red wines, the tannin molecules are relatively small and most drying. As the wine ages, the molecules link up and form long chains that have less taste and feel. The largest chains drop out as sediment.

In recent years, winemakers have learned how to make young reds more approachable by creating larger and softer tannins.

...Michael Bonadies, Sip by Sip

By selecting the appropriate grapes and using special oak barrel aging techniques, we've learned to make an approachable Merlot. The brawny "bite" of the tannins becomes satiny by the time the wine goes into the bottle, making it ready to drink the day you buy it. This is important since some studies show half of the wine in the United States is consumed the same day it is purchased.

...Winemaker Ed Moody, Forest Glen Winery

The Rest of the Story

Forest Glen  
What do the judges think of Ed's "approachable" Merlot? Vintage 1993—Gold medal and Best of Class, L.A. Fair. The next year Merlot rose to 40% of total Forest Glen sales. Vintage 1995—Gold medal and Best of Class, New World International Wine Competition. Narsai David on CBS radio says the '95 Merlot "is a really nice wine for drinking right now." Vintage 1997—My Scott's Panel, in a large, blind tasting voted it Best Buy of the night. Case closed!

The Wine

1997 Forest Glen Barrel Select Merlot, California
Winemaker—Ed Moody
Making Soft Tannins—Ed's not giving away all of his secrets, but I notice he ferments the wine in stainless steel. Fermentation in oak adds tannins. Then he puts the wine into American oak, much of it used previously, which reduces the tannin contribution.
Contact—The Forest Glen number is (800)692-5780.
Price—$10 range
Service—About 30 minutes in the frig.


Nice Timing: Some five years ago Ed told me they were going to make Merlot their flagship wine. Last year national Cabernet Sauvignon sales increased 5%; Merlot increased 40%! I think I'll let him pick my stocks.


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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