Light, Medium & Full Wines: Body Definition Explained


The body of a wine is one of two key indicators of a wine bottle’s quality. The wines’ body definition points to the texture and weight of wine inside your mouth. Wine is described with the strength of their bodies, along with the flavors accompanying this texture.

Broadly, wines can be said to be of three distinct bodies: light, medium, and full-bodied. Fuller bodies don’t necessarily correlate to high quality. Fuller bodies mean that the alcohol content in wine is higher than average.

In this article, we’ll go over the wine’s body definition. We will also cover what the wine bodies can tell you about how a wine will taste.

Wine Body Definition Explained

There are two factors that most prominently affect the body of the wine:

  • The alcohol by volume (ABV)
  • The grape used to make the wine.

Different grapes contain extracts, or solids like tannins, glycerol, etc., in varying quantities, and this affects the texture of the wine. These extracts, especially tannin, imbue the wine with other traits as well.

Some grapes produce more viscous wine than others. Among these are the Sangiovese grapes, while Sauvignon Blanc is on the lighter side.

Regarding the ABV, the alcohol content of wine is mainly determined by how long the grapes were left to ferment. The longer the grapes ferment, the more likely it is that the natural sugars inside these grapes will turn into alcohol.

In the case of fortified wines like Ports and Sherry, some neutral brandy is added during the fermentation process. To increase the ABV above 14%, the legal threshold for fortified wines. Any sugars that don’t convert lend a sweet taste to the wine.

Besides fortification, another way to increase the body of a wine is to store it in an oak barrel. These vessels will not just add a layer of thickness, but also lend the wine some notes of vanilla. However, one must be careful about storing young wine in barrels. The oak can overpower the subtle, undeveloped flavors of these wines.

Light, Medium, and Full-Bodied Wines

Light Bodied Wines

These wines typically have an ABV of below 12.5%. As a result, they have light textures and are much sweeter. These lean beverages go well with snacks or light meats like chicken and fish.

Light-bodied wines are generally the result of grapes grown in colder climates. German Rieslings are a great example since its taste differs considerably from American and other Rieslings grown in hotter environments. Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and the Moscato D’ Asti are other examples of famous wines from this category.

Check out our piece “Best Kind of Wine for Non Wine Drinkers” to see our picks for wines that don’t have that much alcohol content to them.

Medium Bodied Wines

The ABV of medium-bodied wines lies between 12.5% and 14%. Many of the most famous wines fall under this category. The texture of these wines can vary massively between the type of grape(s) used and the method of production.

These wines are comparatively drier due to the decreased density of sugars in them. They also complement a wide variety of foods, such as lean and red meats, roasted vegetables, etc.

Be sure you also go check out “9 Best Non-Alcoholic Wines You Have to Try” for non-alcoholic picks as well.

Full-Bodied Wines

This last category of wine comprises beverages that have an ABV of 14% or above. Many of these wines are either fortified or made from red grapes. This is because the wine contain rich tannins that add dryness and texture to the wine.

Reports have shown that wine makers have gradually, and consistently increased the average ABV of wine over the last few years. This is because full-bodied wines are in high demand, and many associate them with more top-quality wine. But the correlation is suspect at best, given that the cohesion of flavors also plays a role in how wine is judged.

Heavy wine is another name for Full-bodied wine.

Make sure you also go take a look at “Be Aware Of These 6 High Alcohol Content Wines” to see our list of wines with high alcohol content.

The body of a wine is how thick it feels in your mouth. The primary determinant of this factor is the conversion of sugars during the fermentation process. Be sure to also go read “Make Sure to Stay Hydrated as Wine is a Diuretic” or “Try Out These Amazing Wine Substitutes to Make Alcohol-Free Dishes” to stay informed and improve your knowledge from the wine world.

Wine on My Time is a resource blog for wine lovers all across the world! We take pride in delivering the best quality wine material for our readers. Check us out on Instagram and   Pinterest for daily wine content!

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