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What is body in wine?

One of the terms that you’ll hear if you head to a winery or look up the profile of a specific variety, is the body of the wine.

Body levels are how the wine ‘feels’ inside your mouth.


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One of the terms that you’ll hear if you head to a winery or look up the profile of a specific variety, is the body of the wine.

Body levels are how the wine ‘feels’ inside your mouth.

You can think about it in three categories—light- medium- heavy bodied wines, and the main reason for these different mouthfeels is alcohol.

Alcohol is what gives a wine its viscosity. What’s viscosity? In simple terms, it’s what’s used to define a liquid and how easily it responds to stress. For example, water is less viscous than honey—it has less weight and moves more easily than the slow run of honey. Therefore, the more alcohol, the more viscous the wine.

The looks of the wine will help getting body levels right with reds, but it’s the tasting that will confirm the final answer.

A wine’s body level has nothing to do with the wine’s quality. 

Still, it’s important to figure out if we like our wine full, medium or light bodied if we want to start building the ID of our perfect wine. 

It’s the combination of body, oaking, ageing and many other factors, that brought together can result in fabulous wines. A balanced blend of all three is easy to ask for but much harder for the winemaker to achieve.

Let’s try to explain how to figure out the body level of a wine!

1) Start by looking at the wine against a white background and notice the intensity of its color. Pale reds with a watery rim are light-bodied and deeper, darker reds are full-bodied.

2) Swirl it gently around the glass, and notice how the wine moves around. If it moves slowly like a thick and gluey liquid, the body is full; if it behaves like water, it’s light. 

3) Swirl again and look at the drops that that glide down the glass. These are the famous ‘legs’ (or ‘tears’). You can tell how viscous the wine is by how slowly or quickly the wine drips fall.

Glycerol is the main factor for this: the more and the slower they fall, the fuller the body.

And finally let’s drink!

How does the wine feel in your mouth? If it feels like full-bodied full-fat milk, it’s full-bodied; if it feels like skimmed milk, it’s light-bodied.

If you are struggling to call a shot, try ‘chewing the wine’’: get a good sip and fake chewing on it. Does it feel dense or not?

Below, you find a guide to wine body and its three categories—light, medium, and heavy. Learn more here below!


Typically, under 12.5% ABV

Light-bodied wines are the “easy-drinkers.” They’re typically classified as crisp and refreshing and have a light viscosity, or consistency, that’s similar to the lightness of water. Again, this doesn’t mean that the wine is “thin” but that it’s smooth in the mouth.


Typically, between 12.5% and 13.5% ABV

The fact that medium-bodied wines exist is what trips up a lot of novice wine drinkers. It’s that blurry middle ground between heavy-bodied wines and the easy-drinkers. That said, medium-bodied wines are still quite easy to drink and are designed to complement a variety of foods.

Heavy- or Full-Bodied

Typically, over 13.5% ABV

Heavy-bodied wines are where you’ll really start to notice the viscosity of the wine. These can be a little “harder” to drink, partly because of their high ABV but also because they tend to have more tannins drying out your mouth. 

For all your wine needs, shop our wines and see what you’ve learned about wine thus far.

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