Many conversations about wine include discussions on a wine’s weight or described another way, how a wine feels in your mouth when you drink it. Is it heavy, light or somewhere in between?
There are three main styles, or weights of red wine:
Sometimes full-bodied wines are referred to as “meaty.” This means that the wine taste (mouth feel) is sturdy, full-bodied and perhaps chewy. I would also add a full-bodied wine might make your mouth feel dryer and you could have the feeling that the wine has coated the inside of your mouth.
I, for one, am a big fan of meaty, chewy, full-bodied wines. Most full-bodied wines are reds, though some Chardonnays can be “meaty.” In fact, in last week’s blog where I discussed the topic of food and wine pairings, I said that I am such a fan of big, bold, full-bodied wines that I would drink that style of wine throughout the entire dinner regardless of what’s being served alongside it.
While there are a number of factors that contribute to a wine’s body, the main factor is alcohol. In addition to alcohol, typically a full-bodied wine will also have more tannins and more dark fruit flavors. The reason alcohol has such an impact on a wine’s body is the fact that alcohol gives wine its viscosity (thickness). Wines with more alcohol become more viscous or heavier and feel fuller in the mouth.
Alcohol and Weight
Wines that have alcohol levels under 12.5% are typically referred to as light-bodied and are most often white wines. Examples of a light-bodied wine are Riesling and Italian Prosecco.
Wines with alcohol levels between 12.5% and 13.5% are generally considered medium-bodied wines. Examples of this category would be Rosé, Pinot Grigio and most Sauvignon Blancs.
Wines that the alcohol content exceeds 13.5% are considered full-bodied wines. Examples of full-bodied reds would be Syrah/Shiraz, Zinfandel, Cabernet, Merlot and Malbec to name a few. Full-bodied wines are the biggest on the flavor spectrum and pair best with bold flavored food.
One other clue to a red wine’s body is its color. Typically, the darker the wine, the fuller it will taste.
I suggest you serve the wine in large-bowled wine glasses at room temperature, 63 to 69 degrees Fahrenheit. The larger the bowl of the wine glass the more room the wine has to breath and open, releasing the aromas of the wine. These glasses also give you more room to swirl the wine, which burns off some of the alcohol giving the wine more smoothness on the finish. High alcohol wines tend to have a hot peppery finish to them. Decanting the wines and swirling them in your glass improves the finish and tastiness of the wine.
If you haven’t tasted full-bodied wines or given this style of wine any consideration, I suggest you taste some different red wines and see if you enjoy full-bodied, meaty wines as much as I do. Remember to check the alcohol content to determine the style of wine.
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Until next week,