Up there on the long list of expert-sounding terms used to describe wine is “body,” which is one of the most ridiculous and abstract there is. The concept is definable to an extent, but it’s really all about interpretation. Don’t stress, you don’t have to be a sommelier with a cool mustache and fancy glasses to learn about wine’s anatomy. As in, you’re about to do it!
It’s simple enough. Just ask yourself: how does this wine feel in my mouth? Is it full of muscles? Is it lean and elegant? Does it seem a bit disjointed? If you can answer those questions (if you have a tongue) you can talk about a wine’s body.
How can you tell a full-bodied wine from a light-to-medium-bodied wine? Just think about whole milk versus skim milk… same difference! It’s all about how the liquid feels. Each wine has a unique body… no right, no wrong.
The key contributors to a wine’s body are texture, tannin, and alcoholic strength. Again, texture (unlike alcohol content) is only measurable by tongue. Nice and easy. A Sauvignon Blanc might feel sharp, nervy and taut because of its high acidity. A Chardonnay fermented in oak may feel
soft, fleshy, and plush. You just gotta feel it out.
In red wine, tannins (bitter particles from grape skins) act as “bones” that give the wine structure so it doesn’t taste like flat, melted jello. Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, has more tannin than Pinot Noir, which plays a big role in why it usually feels fuller.
That brings us to booze content, or the strength of the wine. White or red wines that have an alcohol content greater than 14% tend to have a smoother, bigger body because of the high sugar content. Grapes that have had more heat and sun exposure produce more sugar, and that sugar gets converted to booze. This is the reason that warmer weather regions-California, Australia, Spain – tend to produce bigger-bodied wines. Key point? More booze usually means more body.
So, you’ve learned the terms, factoids and figures. Finally, it’s time for you to put these bodies to the test of your tongue. Sexy, right? Go ahead, dive into WA’s first Experience Box and feel it all out.
(Cover art and images by Hallie Gluk.)