Wine Down - Tannat
Pronounced – Than - naht
The grape varietal Tannat is thought to have originated in the Basque region of Spain, however it is most commonly associated with the Madiran region of France found at the foothills of the Pyrenees.
In 1870, Basque immigrants brought Tannat grapes to Uruguay. Tannat has adapted so well to the soil and climate that it has since been named the national red grape varietal of Uruguay (where it is known as Harriague) and accounts for one-third of their entire wine production.
Tannat is named for its extremely high tannin levels that can make it difficult to drink by itself or without the right food pairing. Besides aging, the tannins can either be softened by removing the pips during fermentation, or by a process known as micro-oxygenation, both resulting in rounder, softer wine.
The thick-skinned grape lends itself to wines that are deeply colored of purple and red. Tannats are noticeably robust and smoky and generally contain a spicy finish that pairs well with roasted or grilled meats, game, and strong aged cheeses.
While Tannat production is still in its infancy in Virginia, Tom Stevenson, famed author of Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia, has recently lauded the potential of Tannat in the Charlottesville region after his 2004 trip to the commonwealth.
Tannat is considered the king of all grape varietals when it comes to heart health. Dr. Roger Corder, a cardiovascular expert, has proven the correlation between oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs) and a healthy ticker. Tannat has the highest concentration of OPCs of any varietal.
Further evidence of the health benefits of Tannat can be seen in the departement of Gers in southwest France. Tannat is the principal grape in Gers where it is drunk daily. As a result, Gers more than doubles the national average of men in their nineties.