When discussing wine, there is a glossary full of terms used to describe the tastes, aromas and feel of the wine. Beginner’s or casual wine fans may be unaware of these terms, and while there are some you may never need to learn, other terms can help you to ask for and discover wine that you really enjoy! One commonly used term when talking about wine is its ‘body’ – we take a look at what this means.
What is the Body of Wine?
Simply put, the term body is used to refer to the weight or feel of a wine in your mouth. You are likely to have heard wines described as being either ‘full-bodied’, ‘medium-bodied’, or ‘light-bodied’, and these terms correspond to the weight and feel of the wine; ‘fuller’ wines will be heavy and smooth, whereas ‘light’ will feel lighter, crisp and refreshing. The body of a wine does not affect its quality, but it does help us to identify wines that we will enjoy easier. If you really like the heavy, velvety feelings of some red wine, but don’t like the fresher taste of some white wines, then it is likely that you prefer a fuller-bodied feel for your wine.
What Affects the Body of a Wine?
The main factor affecting a wine’s body is the amount of alcohol in it. Alcohol adds viscosity to the wine, so the more alcohol that is in a glass, the heavier and creamier it will feel. Typically, a wine under 12% alcohol will be light-bodied. Generally, these are crisp white wines, such as Riesling. A medium-bodied wine tends to be one with 12.5% to 13.5% alcohol, like Rosé or Pinot Grigio. Wines over this level of alcohol will then usually be full-bodied wines. The majority of these will be red wines, such as Merlot, Cabernet and Zinfandel. However, Chardonnay is one example of a white wine that is often full-bodied.
How Can You Tell What Body a Wine is?
There are a few ways of identifying whether a wine is full or light bodied other than by looking at the alcohol content. Firstly, you’ll get a pretty good idea from the colour of the wine itself. The paler the colour, the lighter-bodied it is, even with red wines. Lighter reds tend to have a waterier quality to them, with a less intense colour. Fuller-bodied bottles will present a much deeper and richer wine that is harder to see through.
Next, swirl the glass and see how the wine moves. A fuller-bodied wine will move slower as it spins, with a thicker, gluier consistency, whereas a light-bodied wine will move more like water. When moving the glass, another thing to look out for is the ‘legs’, which are the drops of wine that slide down the glass. The slower these legs fall back into the wine, the more body the wine has.
Of course, drinking the wine is the best way to determine a wine’s body, as your mouth will quickly be able to feel how dense it is. A common way of comparison is full-fat milk versus skimmed milk. Full-bodied wine feels creamier, thicker and denser, like a full-fat milk, while light-bodied wine is lighter and more watery in consistency like skimmed.
Regardless of whether you like full-bodied wine, light-bodied wine or simply love all types of wine, make sure you are treating your bottles right to get the best tastes out of every glassful by storing your collection in a free-standing wine cabinet.