The body of a wine describes the textures or the weight of the wine and how it feels in the mouth. It is more a feeling that comes from a combination of elements like acidity, glycerol, extract, alcohol, etc. A full bodied wine has a complex well round and rich flavor that lingers in the mouth.
Some people describe it as a dry puckering type feeling from the tannins interacting with the saliva in your mouth. Red wines and white wines can have full bodies. Some of the red wines associated with full bodies is Cabernet Sauvignon, and French Bordeaux. Dry whites include Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.
Usually aged in wood and aged. Some dessert wines like Sauternes are considered full bodied because the extra sugar adds weight to the texture. It is hard to judge the body of a wine since it pertains to ones wine feel because everyone has their own opinions and feelings.
Smell, taste, legs, and viscosity can be seen and are more a physical attribute as compared to a feeling like judging the body of a wine. Some wines that are higher in alcohol can be considered full bodied.
To compare it to another product, I will use milk. A full bodied wine would be similar in texture to cream or half and half, a medium body would be similar to regular milk and a light bodied wine would be like 2% milk which is more watery and thin.
There are certain recommendations on what foods go well with wine. This is not an exact science but could help bring out the flavors of your meal. An overpowering wine will ruin the food is not properly paired.
The general rule is Full bodied wines should pair well with hearty meats, steak, beef, heavy pastas, etc. If the meal is big and hearty then the wine should be as well.
If you want to have a salad or some seafood, something light then a good light bodied wine will help bring out the flavors of the meal. I remember having a nice Vinho Verde with a salad and it made the green bell pepper so lively and it tasted so intense from the wine complimenting the flavor.
The best way to learn about body is to try different wines. Find the differences between mouth feel and you will be able to determine the body of the wine. Hopefully this article will help you learn a little more and as always, enjoy.
Further reading: What is a Decanter and Why Should I Use One?
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