What do we mean when we talk about body in a wine?
The world of wine is complex and fascinating. When we’re just starting to learn about it, it can be difficult to understand some of the terms used by the more experienced. One of these terms is “a wine’s body”. So now we’re going to explain what we mean when we talk about body in a wine and how it influences the tasting experience.
Imagine that water and oil have neither colour nor taste, how would you tell them apart?
This is an extreme way of explaining what the body of a wine is. There are some that, when you drink them, run lightly from the mouth to the throat, like a torrent of water. Others are denser and take their time on their journey, bathing us in their flavour and leaving a certain aftertaste and texture in their wake. These wines are like oil, they have more body than water.
In general terms, the body of a wine refers to the sensation of weight or texture that it has in the mouth. This can range from a wine that feels light and ethereal to one that is dense and heavy. The body of a wine is determined by several factors, like the type of grape used, the climate the grapes were grown in and how the wine was made.
Lighter wines have a lighter body and a softer texture and travel quickly through the mouth and throat.
Medium-bodied wines have a volume that lies between light and full wines.
Finally, full-bodied wines have a denser, more persistent finish and a heavier texture.
Which factors influence the body of a wine?
Although not a determining factor, climate is related to the body of a wine, because generally wines from warm climates tend to have more volume than wines from cold climates. A warm climate promotes the fast ripening of the grapes and generates more sugar, which during fermentation is transformed into a higher level of alcohol, factors that we will analyze separately below.
The greater the amount of residual sugar, the greater the body of a wine. Think about what honey looks like. Although this is an extreme example, it helps us to understand the effect of sugar in the liquid. Although wines are not as dense as honey, the sweeter a wine is, the more full-bodied it will be.
A very important factor in determining the body of a wine is the amount of alcohol in it. You will probably have heard of the famous wine tears or legs. If you swirl a moderate amount of wine in your glass and stop, you will see how it slides down the walls of the glass. The slower this process is, the more full-bodied the wine in your glass will be. This same unctuousness is what you can feel in your mouth after tasting it.
The way a wine is made also influences its body. Tannins are found in both the skin and seeds of the grapes and in the wood of the barrels. Wines that maintain more contact with their skins or are aged for longer tend to have more body than young wines with little or no contact with the skins. Therefore, aged red wines are usually more full-bodied than whites, although there are also interesting examples of full-bodied whites that have been aged in barrels or in orange wines, which are made through the prolonged contact of the must with their skins, and therefore contain a greater amount of tannins.
And while we are on the subject of winemaking methods, wines that haven’t been aged in barrels but are kept in contact with their yeasts, also tend to be wines that develop volume thanks to the autolysis of the lees. This is the process where the yeasts decompose when they die, and which, thanks to techniques like battonage, contribute to providing intensity and volume, especially to white wines.
It is important to note that even if a wine is light-bodied, this doesn’t mean that it lacks flavour, personality or character. This is influenced by the grape varieties that make up the wine and, as we have seen, the way it is made and the amount of alcohol or residual sugar.
The body of a wine can also affect how it pairs with food. Generally, lighter wines are paired with lighter dishes, while denser wines are paired with more intense dishes.
In conclusion, the body of a wine refers to the texture and weighty feel that it has in the mouth, it can influence the tasting experience and should be considered when pairing with food. We hope this information helps you to better understand this term and enjoy wine tasting even more. If you’re still not sure, don’t forget that on Decántalo you can find this information in the notes of each of your favourite wines. Now all you have to do is practice.