Most people when drinking, don’t really consider the way the liquid feels in their mouth as a factor.
When we talk about the body of wine we mean the weight of the wine, this can also be described as the viscosity.
It sounds weird but think about milk
Skimmed milk is very light-bodied and watery, semi-skimmed less so and full-fat milk much richer and fuller-bodied, cream would take that analogy to an extreme and yoghurt would just cause problems so best not to mention it (oops).
If you are anything like me and don’t have any idea what different types of milk feel like in your mouth, then fruit juice can also work to give you an idea.
Apple juice is thin if you compare it to mango juice, pineapple juice sits in between - smoothies will be the step too far in this case.
Wine does not go to these extremes but there are light-bodied wines and full-bodied wines – from both reds and whites.
Disclaimer - I'm not really dairy-free, I would inhale cheese if that was an option. You may notice this when I start posting about wine and cheese matching. I just can't stand milk or cream.
Body of a wine
The body of a wine is affected by multiple things
Acidity – the higher the acidity the lighter the body of the wine. Acidity lifts the wine and makes you salivate which makes the wine feel lighter.
Tannins – the higher the tannins, the fuller the body of the wine. Tannins are polyphenols that add a textural component to the wine and cause a drying sensation in the mouth.
Alcohol - the higher the alcohol, the fuller the body of the wine. Alcohol is more viscous than water so adds to the mouthfeel.
Sweetness - the higher the residual sugar level of the wine the fuller the body. Sugar is more viscous than water – think of honey being poured from the jar.
These are all impacted by other elements such as grape variety; each grape variety has different levels of alcohol, tannins and acidity associated with them.
The climate where the grapes are grown will impact how ripe the grapes can become which will have an impact on the potential alcohol and acidity of the wine.
Oak will add more tannins to the wine and after time will result in a softer and fuller-bodied wine.
Glycerol/Glycerine – this is an organic chemical that is produced as a by-product of wine fermentation that is colourless and odourless and impacts the body of wine by adding smoothness and viscosity.