A Beginners Guide to Wine Tasting: Body

June 26, 2019

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A term that often appears whenever wine is being discussed is “body.” Reference to a wine's body appears in all many of wine guides as well on the labels themselves. But, what is body in the context of wine? If you’ve often heard this term and been too embarrassed to ask what it means, then read on.

So what is wine body?

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Wine body is a term used to describe the way a wine feels in your mouth. Wine can be described as “full-bodied”, “medium-bodied” or “light-bodied.” Full-bodied wines feel heavy in the mouth and have an unmistakably viscous texture. Full-bodied wines tend to be smooth have a creamy richness. Conversely, light-bodied wines tend to feel light and almost effervescent. They are crisp and refreshing and can feel acidic.

What determines a wine's body?

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Without a doubt, alcohol content has the most profound influence on a wine’s body. Wine’s with higher alcohol content have fuller bodies. This is because the percentage of alcohol content determines the viscosity of the wine. The higher the alcohol the more dense and thick the wine will feel.

Another factor that contributes to a wine’s body is the quantity of extracts present. Extracts can include, tannins, sugars, and acids that find their way into the wine during the pressing and fermenting processes. Furthermore, certain winemaking processes, such as oak barrel ageing, will result in fuller-bodied wines.

Finally, the actual grapes used to create the wine can influence the overall body. Some grapes have a higher sugar content than others. The higher sugar content results in higher alcohol content during the fermentation process, this yields full-bodied wines.

How to identify wine body

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So, with all this in mind, how does one actually identify a wines body characteristics? Simply examining the wine’s color will give you a good idea of its body. When it comes to wine, the richer the red, the heavier the body. You’ve probably seen people swirl wine before tasting. This does two things: it releases the bouquet and aids in the tasting, but it’s also a good way to determine the body of the wine. While swirling a glass of wine pay attention to the way the wine moves. Full-bodied wines move slower than light wines, the liquid will also take longer to slide down the walls of the glass once you stop swirling.

Beyond, the obvious method of drinking the wine and contemplating its texture there is one foolproof way to determine a wine's body. If you’re in the wine aisle at your local grocery store a quick glance at the wine’s label will immediately reveal whether you’re about to purchase a full or light-bodied wine.

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Light-bodied

If a wine has an alcohol content of 12.5% or lower than it is a light-bodied wine. Very few red wines have this little alcohol content. Examples of light-bodied wines include Reisling, Vinho Verde, Prosecco, and Moscato.

Medium-bodied

Any wine with an alcohol content between 12.5% and 13.5% is medium-bodied. Rose, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc are examples of medium-bodied wines.

Full-bodied

Finally, any wine with an alcohol content higher than 13.5% is full-bodied. Big, bold reds such as Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec are all considered full-bodied.

James Aitchison