Is Your Wine ‘Light Body’ or ‘Heavy Body’?

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Wine’s taste can be often described and rated by the wine’s ‘body’. It refers to the texture, viscosity, and weight of the wine combined, and it also has own levels just like boxing and taekwondo. The level of the body depends on the wine’s alcohol content, and it can be either light body, medium body, or heavy body. Heavy body can sometimes expressed as “full”. 

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Although it varies depending on the wine, red wines usually have higher alcohol content than white wines. This is related to the type of the grapes used and the time they were harvested. Many red wine grapes are harvested later than white wine grapes do, depending on what style the winemaker pursues. Red wine grapes that are harvested later become more ripe than white wine grapes, which gives them more sugar content, and this content transforms into alcohol during the fermentation process. Therefore, red wines result in with higher alcohol level than white wines.

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Depending on the alcohol level, some wines feel like water with a light texture in the mouth, while other wines feel heavier like whole milk. For example, Pinot Noir and Petite Sirah are both red wines, but they differ largely with their body. Grapes for Pinot Noir are harvested the earliest among red wines, so it has the lightest body. On the other hand, Petite Sirah’s grapes are harvested later, which results in stronger and heavier body.

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Here’s a list of how wine’s bodies are categorized in general:

White Wines

  • Light: Pinot Gris/Grigio, Riesling
  • Light to Medium: Chenin Blanc, Muscat/Moscato, Sauvignon Blanc/Fume Blanc
  • Medium: Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Viognier, sparkling wine
  • Medium to Heavy: Chardonnay

Red Wines

  • Light to Medium: Pinot Noir, Sangiovese
  • Medium: Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Tempranillo
  • Medium to Heavy: Grenache, Zinfandel
  • Heavy: Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah/Shiraz

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Original article by Candice Park
Translated by Audrey Joung

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