Maybe you have been to a tasting where you have heard people describe the body of a wine. You wonder what this means. Your wine is not a person, it does not have a body, and yet there you are hearing about this wines body!
Unlike sweetness, acidity, tannin and alcohol the body of a wine is not a scientific measurement or term. But it is linked to these four things. Body is the general weightiness of the wine as you are drinking it. You can have full, medium and light bodied wines.
Fuller bodied wine tend to be the bigger and more powerful ones, usually lower in acidity and higher in alcohol and tannin and can be sweeter. These can include wines made in warmer climates, new world reds, Southern Rhone varieties and wines made from some of the following grapes: Pinotage, Syrah, Cab Sav and Chardonnay (not always).
Light bodied wines exhibit higher acidity, lower alcohol, sweetness and tannins compared to a bold wine. They are aromatic, lighter and leaner. Often produced in cooler climates, they include German Mosel Riesling, Hunter Valley Semillon, Asti and Portuguese Vinho Verde.
Many wines belong in the in-between category, those with the medium bodies! Usually with an alcohol content of between 11 and 12%. Gamay, Pinot Noir and Chenin Blanc are among those usually considered medium bodied.
These are not pre-determined body types, we dont like to put anyone in a box! These examples are simply the collection of observations thus far. You may come across a Cab Sav that is really lacking in body. Dont let this throw you off, each winemaker has their own style, and a light Cab Sav is not always a bad thing!
The colour of your wine may also indicate its body, with lighter wine such as Gamay, Pinot noir, Grenache and Vinho Verde being light to medium bodied. Then Merlot, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo and Sauvingnon Blanc as quite firmly medium. Then the heavy weights, Malbec, Syrah, Mourvedre and Chardonnay as full bodied wines.
Grape varieties play a huge role in determining the body of your wine, I already touched on a few varieties above. However, climate and ageing has a huge impact on these varieties, for example your Australian barrel aged Chardonnay will have more body than your French stainless steel fermented chardonnay. Warmer climates tend to produce grapes that are higher in sugar, this in turn affects the alcohol levels which determine body. Still with me?
So next time you drink your wine, take a moment to think about how that sip feels in your mouth? Does it feel heavy and punchy, or light and aromatic? That is your wines body talking. But, dont be fooled into thinking that fuller body means higher quality, do not confuse these two. Body is no indicator of how good a wine is.
Now you know about body and why your wine definitely has one. I hope!