The Difference Between Light, Medium, and Full Bodied Red Wines

The Difference Between Light-, Medium, and Full-Bodied Red Wines

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six wine glasses with different types of red wine


January 19 2022


To better understand wine, it helps to know some basic categories. Here we'll share the difference between light-, medium-, and full-bodied red wines (and some of our favorite sangrias for each). 

The body of a wine refers to its mouthfeel, with light-bodied wines being less viscous that full-bodied wines. Remember, viscosity describes the thickness or texture of a liquid, with water being less viscous than syrup, for example. 

Tannins is the other term that comes up a lot. Tannins are naturally occurring compounds called polyphenols. These are found in grape skins and give wines a noticeable dryness. 

  1. Light Reds

    Light red wines generally have a lower alcohol content of less than 12.5 percent. They also have less tannins than medium- or full-bodied wines. Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Barbera are a few examples.

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  2. Medium Reds

    Medium-bodied red wines tend to have an alcohol content of between 12.5 and 13.5 percent and more tannins than a light-bodied red wine but less than a full-bodied red wine. Examples include Merlot, Shiraz, Tempranillo, and Nebbiolo. 

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  3. Full Reds

    Any red wine with more than 13.5 percent alcohol is considered a full-bodied wine. Full-bodied wines have more complex flavors and have a richer mouthfeel. Examples include Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Syrah.