Body is an important characteristic of wine. Whether a wine is full bodied, medium bodied, or light bodied will help determine which foods pair best with it, when it is best to drink it, and even whether you are likely to enjoy drinking it. Unfortunately, wine body is also a characteristic that is difficult to explain and learn to understand. It's not like sweetness, acidity, or a citrus flavor that is easy to recognize. It takes time and experience to learn how to differentiate between full bodied, medium bodied, and light bodied wines.
What is Wine Body?
Put simply, a wine's body describes the "weight" and texture of a wine in your mouth — how a wine feels against your tongue. Wines don't really have different physical weights and aren't really thicker or thinner than each other, so the sensation we describe as body is a subjective impression. This "mouthfeel" of a wine is produced not by it's mass or viscosity, but rather by it's alcohol content, extracts, glycerol, and acidity.
Light bodied wines are usually described as feeling thinner and more like water; full bodied wines in contrast are described as feeling thicker, heavier, and more like milk. Medium bodied wines of course fall somewhere in between the two.
There is a certain amount of subjectivity to this, but because the body of a wine is dependent on objective factors — tannins, acidity, alcohol — certain wines should be perceived as light bodied or heavy bodied to you. Thus the best way to learn to distinguish light bodied, medium bodied, and full bodied wines is to taste wines of particular types and learning how their sensations compare to each other.
Examples of Full Bodied Wines
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Oaked Chardonnay
- Syrah / Shiraz
Examples of Medium Bodied Wines