Pacific Rim
July 14, 2021 | wine | Pacific Rim

What is the difference between light, medium, and heavy red wine?

While there are many different words to describe wine, “body” is perhaps the most unique. The body of wine has nothing to do with the shape of its bottle or the wine itself.

Young couple having red wine at outdoor restaurant

Red Wines from Lightest to Boldest

Instead, it has everything to do with the way the wine feels inside your mouth. It may help to think of it this way. When you drink a glass of water, it doesn’t stick to the inside of your mouth. Instead, it flows quickly, and once you swallow, there’s no real aftertaste.

Switch to a strawberry milkshake, though, and you’ll find the inside of your mouth is coated with a viscous, thick liquid. After swallowing, you’ll have that residual, pleasant taste in your mouth. That’s what’s meant by “body.” 

This same concept applies to wines. Some feel like water inside your mouth. Those tend to be light-bodied wines.

Where does boldness in wine come from?

Others, though, feel vicious and somehow thicker, leaving a lingering flavor on your tongue. Those are full-bodied wines. In between the two are the medium-bodied wines. Generally, a heavy red wine is more likely to be full-bodied.

A medium red wine might be somewhere in the middle. A light white wine is usually a light-bodied wine.

The key factor that contributes to the body of the wine is the level of alcohol. The higher the alcohol content, the higher the viscosity and vice versa.

  1. Wines with high levels of alcohol will usually feel viscous and feel fuller in the mouth. All wine bottles have the level of alcohol clearly stated on the label. 
  2. Wines that have less than 12.5% alcohol are said to be light-bodied wines. Classic light-bodied wines include Pinot Noir, Gamay, Shiva, Lambrusco, St. Laurent, Riesling, etc
  3. Wines that have an alcohol level between 12.5% and 13.5% are considered medium-bodied and include Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon blanc, Rose, Cabernet Franc, and French Burgundy. 

Wine Alcohol Content

Wines that have an alcohol level of 13.5% are considered full-bodied and include wines like Shiraz, Syrah, Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet, and Malbec

Overall, the majority of full-bodied wines are red wines but some white wines that are full-bodied include Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Rhones Whites, and White Rioja to name a few.

Heavy red wines tend to be best consumed in small amounts and paired with rich foods like steak, meats cooked in a sweet marinade or sauce, or coated with a spicy crust. 

Understanding the difference between light, medium, and heavy wines is vital as you prepare to make your next purchase so you can enjoy it with the ideal pairing.

PACIFIC RIM AND COMPANY is located in the Pacific Northwest. Pacific Rim and Company representatives are available to answer your wine questions and offer selections that are sure to please your palette with an online presence.


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