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Wine Body Guide


Full-Bodied? Light-Bodied? Somewhere in Between? 

How to Determine the Body of a Wine

When discussing wine, the wine body is often mentioned. But exactly what does the body of a wine mean? The wine body is determined by how much alcohol is in the wine and how it feels in your mouth when you taste it.

Wine body is broken down into three different distinctions: full body, medium body and light body. Since alcohol gives wine its viscosity (the thickness of a fluid), the amount of alcohol in the wine defines its body. A good example of viscosity is water (which is very fluid) and honey (which is thicker and does not flow as easily as water). Water is light-bodied while honey is full-bodied.

Wine body can vary depending upon the winemaker as well as the types of grapes grown in any region. Wine that has been aged in oak can also cause a wine to be lighter or heavier in body. Regional climates also determine the wine body. Warmer climate wine regions tend to produce fuller bodied wines while cooler climate regions tend to produce lighter bodied wines.

The alcohol content of a wine should always be clearly indicated on the wine label. Generally, you’ll find the alcohol content labeled on the side of the front label or somewhere on the back label.

A good rule of thumb to follow: Wines that have a 12.5% alcohol or less are generally considered light-bodied. Wines ranging between 12.5% and 13.5% are generally considered medium to full-bodied. Wines ranging over 13.5% are generally considered to be full-bodied.

Here are some general examples of wine body types:

Light-Bodied Red Wines

  • Beaujolais Nouveau
  • Lambrusco

Light-Bodied White Wines  

  • Moscato
  • Riesling
  • Soave
  • Vino Verde

Medium-Bodied Red Wines  

  • Cab Franc
  • Chianti
  • Dolcetto
  • Sangiovese
  • Pinot Noir
  • Rosé

Medium-Bodied White Wines

  • Albariño
  • Bordeaux
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Grüner Veltliner
  • Pinot Grigio
  • Sauvignon Blanc

Full-Bodied Red Wines

  • Barolo
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Malbec
  • Merlot
  • Nebbiolo
  • Syrah/Shiraz
  • Tannat
  • Zinfandel

Full-Bodied White Wines

  • Chardonnay
  • Viognier

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