If you aren’t a fan of bitterness, this is good news for you.

Jessica Ball, M.S., RD
March 11, 2021
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A hand resting on a glass of wine on a table top
Credit: PeopleImages

Here at EatingWell, we love wine (in moderation, of course). Whether you enjoy a nice glass of red with some pasta or toast with a crisp rosé in warmer months, wine can be a delicious part of celebrations. (You can also find pretty decent wine for just $15, according to sommeliers). There is definitely something to be said for wine pairings that elevate foods, but the scientific effect of food on the taste of your favorite vino is not as common knowledge. Recent research out of the American Chemical Society found that one type of food may have a large impact on wine flavor: fat. 

A new study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry took a look at the role food can play on the flavor of grapes and wine. Tannins are the polyphenic part of grapes that are responsible for the bitter, astringent taste of red wines. To see the role of fats in the flavor of wine, researchers looked at how tannins interacted with fats in a solution as well as how consuming fats before consuming wine with tannins affect its perceived flavor. When added to an emulsion of olive oil and water, tannins inserted themselves into lipid droplets causing larger droplets to form. They also conducted taste tests to see if consuming oils like olive oil or grapeseed oil affected the perceived flavor of wine. Volunteers noted that consuming oil before drinking wine mellowed the astringency of the tannins and made the wines taste more fruity than bitter. 

Combining their findings, researchers concluded that tannins bind to lipids, making them less available to bind to your taste buds and mellowing their flavor. If you are averse to super bitter wines, this is good news. Enjoying a snack like a piece of cheese, bread with olive oil or a handful of nuts can help mellow the astringency of new wines, making them more forgiving if you are trying something new. If you are a fan of bitter, maybe try spreading out when you're drinking your wine and eating foods with fat. However you like your wine, we can all cheers to new research that helps us better understand our favorite beverages.