Celebrity Wine FAQ – Jimmy Smits


Jimmy Smits, courtesy NBC

Actor Jimmy Smits has a new show on NBC, premiering Wednesday, Sept. 15, at 10 p.m., called Outlaw.  You can read Anne’s review of it here.


Anne also got a chance to chat briefly with Smits last summer and asked him for a Wine FAQ, and chatted about Smits’ wine faves, in general.

“I’m not really a white wine drinker,” he said, explaining that white wines will give him a headache sometimes.    “But I like gewurtztraminer wines.”

Now, gewurz is often a fave with folks who like spicy foods, but Smits said he doesn’t really eat spicy foods.  He likes his gewurz with fish.  He likes his red wines, too.

“I love good Italian wines,” he said.  “Good Barolos or Barbarescos.”

Smits said he doesn’t have a cellar.  “I’ve got a crawl space.  A couple bottles that I keep down there to keep cool.”

His wine FAQ?

“My question is about the tannic quality of wines?  What determines whether it’s more or less?”

Our answer – Tannins are common in many plants and evolved as defense mechanisms so the plants wouldn’t get eaten.  Tea, for example, has a lot of tannin in it, and if you’ve ever drunk a cup of strong black tea and felt the inside of your mouth dry out – that’s the tannin in the tea.  With wine, you’ll usually come across that effect with a young strong red.

That’s because the tannins in wine come from the grape skins, seeds and stems.  White wines are usually made from grapes that are crushed, then pressed immediately into juice before fermenting, which means the juice has very little contact with the skins and seeds.  With red wines, the grapes are crushed, but the juice stays with the skins and seed (and hopefully not too many of the stems) until it’s fermented and then pressed.  Because tannins can help a wine age better and because the skin is where all the color is, winemakers will sometimes leave the freshly crushed grapes and juice to soak for a day or two before starting fermentation to get an extra boost of tannin and color.

However, tannins will generally lose their harshness as the wine ages.  Harsh tannins are short chained chemicals that can be visualized as short bristles on a toothbrush – imagine that on your skin.  As the tannins and wine age, the tannins re-form into longer chemical chains that are more like a makeup brush or powder puff on your skin. Doesn’t that feel better?  Which is why a well-made, well-aged wine will taste nice and mellow and its younger sibling just dries your mouth out.


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