Definition - What does Full-Bodied mean?

Full-bodied is a wine tasting term that refers to wines that feel heavy, thick and viscous in the mouth. The tasting term refers only to mouthfeel, not taste like other wine terms. Full-bodied wines have a rich, complex, well-rounded flavor that lingers in the mouth.

It is one of three types of body descriptors, with light- and medium-bodied as the other two options. Both red and white wines can be full-bodied. In fact, full-bodied reds and full-bodied whites are two of the nine main styles of wine; the other styles are: medium-bodied reds, light-bodied reds, rosé wines, light-bodied whites, aromatic whites, dessert and fortified wines, champagne and sparkling wines.

WineFrog explains Full-Bodied

There are several factors that give a wine a fuller body. Alcohol content creates viscosity, which adds to the fullness of the body. Tannins give wine structure, creating a thicker sensation in the mouth; tannins come from the skins and the seeds (pips) - thicker skinned grape varieties add more tannin than thin skinned grapes. Winemakers use specific techniques to increase the body of the wine. Malolactic fermentation increases the texture, adding creaminess. Oak aging also adds tannin and the aromatic compounds called vanillin that give a buttery texture (and flavor). Finally, sugar levels (called residual sugar) increases the viscosity of the wine, making it more syrupy than watery. Usually the winemaker leaves 3-4 grams per liter.

The following grape varieties are known for making full-bodied wines:

  • Aglianico
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chardonnay
  • Dolcetto
  • Douro reds
  • Gewürtztraminer
  • Malbec
  • Marsanne
  • Merlot
  • Monastrell
  • Montepulciano
  • Mourvedre
  • Nebbiolo
  • Nero d’Avola
  • Petite Sirah
  • Pinotage
  • Priorat
  • Sagrantino
  • Sangiovese
  • Sémillon
  • Sauternes
  • Syrah/Shiraz
  • Tannat
  • Tempranillo
  • Viognier
  • Zinfandel

Full-bodied red wines pair best with strong flavored cuisine like BBQ, Mexican, Smoked meats, steaks, mushroom dishes and black pepper. Full-bodied white wines pair best with crab, lobster, pasta with cream sauce, tarragon chicken, white pizza, cashew cream, soft cheese, chicken and other poultry.

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