Skip to content

What is wine body?

why wine body matters for food and wine pairing

Wine Body

and Wine and Food Pairing Basics

Wine professionals will commonly refer to wine body. Specifically, they will say a wine is light-bodied, medium-bodied or full-bodied. Wine body is tactile; you can feel it when you put it in your mouth.

And although referencing wine body is common among the wine elite, it is understandably not appreciated by most people. What does wine body mean exactly? Why is it important?

For one,  knowing the body of a wine enables you to be specific about what you like or dislike about it. So if your trying to search out new wines, it’s a great way to differentiate grape varieties to find your style preference.

Most importantly however, understanding wine body is imperative to knowing why some wines work or don’t work with specific foods. Wine body is extremely important for food and wine pairing.

For my subscribers (who have access to my food and wine pairing exercises), you may remember the chicken wine pairing exercise here.

Arguably, the most important wine and food pairing rule is: match the weight of the wine with the weight of the food.

Read other posts by SommWine

[How 4 North American Grape Varieties Destroyed the Vineyards of Europe]

[Why does New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Taste so Darn Good?]

[What do the regions Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Brunello di Montalcino have in common? Both were the center of large scale wine fraud in recent years. Read 3 Recent Wine Scandals You Should Know here.

[The Best Free Wine Apps for Keeping Your Wine Notes]

 

 

What do we mean when we discuss wine body?

Wine Body
Wine body is tactile; you can feel the weight of it in your mouth.

A wine’s body could be more accurately described as mouthfeel or weight.

Think about what it’s like to leave skim milk in your mouth versus 2% milk. Then think about what the mouthfeel of whole milk feels like in your mouth.

That’s the difference in mouthfeel between a light-bodied, medium-bodied and full-bodied wine. Body is how we describe a wine’s weight or mouthfeel.

 

SommWine Tip

  • When I’m discussing wine with layfolk, I like to use the terms ‘lightweight wine’, ‘mid-weight wine’ and ‘heavy weight wine’. I feel more people understand me when I refer to a wine as being lightweight as opposed to saying, “This wine is light-bodied.”

    On the other hand, I do feel most consumers understand what a full-bodied wine is. But I’d really like to know your thoughts on the topic.

Do you already know what is meant by a light-bodied wine or a medium-bodied wine?
Please share in the comments below!

What do we mean when we discuss the weight of food?

On the same token, I do feel that most people understand food in terms of weight.

Words like rich and heavy are common descriptive words for foods that are filling.

Foods such as roastbeef with Yorkshire pudding and gravy come to mind. Additionally, creamy, reduced Indian Rogan Josh or Butter Chicken are just as satiating. I’d also say casseroles or roasted vegetables topped with aged cheddar cheese sauces are just as rich.

In short, the above are all heavy dishes, or ‘heavyweight foods‘ if you will.

On the other hand we say most salads are light. Moreover flaky, white fish such as halibut or sole isn’t considered so filling either. We can put these foods into the lightweight category.

In the middle-weight range, there are dishes such as herb-crusted pan seared chicken breast. Furthermore, most roasted vegetable dishes like ratatouille, roasted beets or cauliflower are mid-weight. I’d say most dishes based on tomato sauce (without cream) are mid-weight foods.  I’d also include oily fish such as sable fish and sockeye salmon in the ‘mid-weight‘ food category.

 

Examples of light, mid-weight, and heavyweight foods

Lightweight foods

salads

light, flaky fish such as halibut or cod

grilled chicken breast with chimichurri sauce

Salads are considered light-weight foods

Mid-weight foods

roasted vegetables like ratatouille

pan-seared chicken thigh

sable fish or sockeye salmon

Ratatouille is a medium-weighted dish

Heavyweight foods

roast beef, Yorkshire pudding with gravy

rich, creamy curry dishes

dishes with melted aged cheddar sauce

Rich curry dishes are an example of heavy weight foods

Now, let’s take the above foods and apply them to wines with different body weights…

Examples of light, mid-, and heavyweight wines

Pinot Grigio a wine with light body. Wine Body
Pinot Blanc, a wine with light body
Beaujolais from France is a light bodied red wine. Wine Body

Light weight wines

Italian Pinot Grigio

most Pinot Blancs

Beaujolais from France (Gamay)

Sancerre and Sauvignon Blanc are wines that have medium body
11
Chinon is made with Cabernet Franc. It is from the Loire Valley in France. It is a wine that has medium body. Wine body

Mid-weight wines

most Sauvignon Blancs (New Zealand or Sancerre

some Chenin Blancs (Loire or South Africa)

Cabernet Franc from Chinon, France

Crianza Rioja from Spain

Viognier is a wine with full body
1
9

Heavyweight wines

most Gewurztraminer, Viognier,
and California Chardonnay

most Cabernet Sauvignons

Malbec from Argentina

Limitations to the above wine examples...

The above categories are pretty darn good guesses. I mean, if you buy a mid-priced Loire or South African Chenin Blanc, for example, you have a pretty darn good chance those wines will be mid-weight wines. (If you buy on the inexpensive end, you’re probably going to get a light weight wine; you pay more money for more weight in wines!)

So not ALL Chenin Blanc’s are mid-weight wines. But, in wine we like to speak in generalizations as it makes complex topics easier to digest. Generally, you will either have to ask your local wine shop clerk if the Chenin Blanc you are purchasing is a medium-bodied wine.

OR, just take a sip and ask yourself, “How heavy is this wine in my mouth. Is it light or heavy, or somewhere in between??” If the wine feels somewhere in between, you have a wine that is medium-bodied.

 

Wine and Food Pairing Rule

Match the weight of the wine with the weight of the food

With any food and wine pairing, we are really trying to make sure the wine still tastes good.

That’s because if a food and wine pairing clashes, it’s the wine that will taste bad, not the food. Truly, the main reason why we think about food and wine pairing at all, is so that the wine isn’t spoiled by eating your meal.

So, let’s apply that rule to above examples of wine body and food weight. Generally speaking, if you drink light bodied wines, such as Pinot Grigio, you should pair it with light foods such as halibut.

If you are eating medium weighted foods such as ratatouille, you should choose a medium-weighted wine such as Sancerre or a Loire Cabernet Franc from Chinon.

Finally, if you are eating roastbeef with Yorkshire pudding served with rich gravy sauce, you should opt for the Viognier (for white wine), or a Malbec from Argentina, or a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Simple right?

Wine and food pairing party
At your next dinner party, play this game. Ask your guests to put some wine in their mouth and guess if the wine is lightweight, midweight or a heavyweight wine.

Wine body is one structural element of wine only

If you thought this was a little too simple, you’d be right. But this is a good place to start for food and wine pairing basics.

For wine body is what we call a structural element. Therefore, the body of a wine relates to the relationships between other structural elements in the wine as a whole. We can discuss that concept more in other posts.

For now, know that if you don’t follow these weight guidelines, you risk not being able to taste your wine!

 

Summary

Wine body is a structural element that anyone can sense. Simply by putting wine in your mouth and holding it there for a moment, you will know if a wine is light bodied, medium bodied or full bodied.

But the next time you taste wine with your friends, use the terms lightweight, mid-weight or heavyweight wine. Then, explain the skim milk, regular milk or whole milk analogy to them. Ask your friends if they can predict what the wine body is of the wine you are drinking.

Why do this?

For one, it’s fun!

Secondly,  discerning between light, medium or full-bodied wines enables you to be specific about what you like or dislike about said wine. But most importantly, understanding wine body is imperative to knowing why some wines work or don’t work with specific foods.

What would you like me to talk about next?
Share it in the comments below!

If you like what you see, go on and share it!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email

No comment yet, add your voice below!


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Related Posts

SommWine

Log In below

Join our community at

SommWine

* indicates required
Email Preferences
Email Format

We use Mailchimp for sending emails. Learn about their privacy policies here.

Why?

Free Stuff + Great Wine Content

And if you sign up today, receive a free chicken wine pairing exercise in your email!