The bigger and bolder the better

Published on October 10, 2020

“In life, you tend to be straightforward and decisive.  You enjoy intense flavours.  A big, bold red wine would be your go-to wine.” 

If this is you, and there are many Winecroft members like you, the needle on your Winecroft Wine Style Meter will be pointing very much towards the full-bodied direction.  In this case, which red wines from a restaurant winelist or your local wine shop should you look out for?

Stepping back a little, what do we mean by a full-bodied wine.  A wine’s body refers to the perceived weight of the wine in the mouth. Think about the how different skimmed milk, whole milk and cream feel in your mouth.  A full-bodied wine is the cream!

While there are many factors that can contribute to a wine’s body, the top 3 things to look out for when choosing a red wine from a wine list or from a wine shop is alcohol level, grape variety and origin.

The primary factor is the alcohol level. After water, alcohol is the major constituent of wine, and as it has a higher viscosity, the higher the alcohol content, the higher the perceived weight (sensation of fullness in the mouth).

A red wine with an alcohol level of 14% or above will typically be considered to be full-bodied.

The second indicator of a wine’s body is the grape (or blend of grapes) used to produce the wine.  Typically, the thicker and darker skinned the grape, the higher the level of resultant extract (the dissolved solids in the wine) and the higher the level of flavours and tannins.  Tannins are the naturally occurring polyphenol found in plants, seeds, bark, wood, leaves, and fruit skins and in wine adds both bitterness and astringency, as well as complexity.

The grapes to look out for full-bodied red wine lovers (in order of boldness!):

  • Tannat
  • Sagrantino
  • Petite Sirah
  • Touriga Nacional
  • Mourvèdre
  • Petit Verdot
  • Pinotage
  • Shiraz / Syrah
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Malbec
  • Aglianico
  • Nero d’Avola

Wines made from these grapes will be full-bodied.  If it’s not clear what the grape is from the label or wine list, the colour is a good proxy – typically the darker the wine, the fuller-bodied it will be.

The third indicator is the origin of the wine.  Climate affects the body of the wine and fuller-bodied grape varieties tend to grow in warmer climates.  Cooler climates tend to produce lighter red wines.  However, if the same grape variety is grown in both a cooler climate and a warmer climate, the style of the wine from the warmer climate would be fuller (e.g. comparing a Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux, France (cooler climate) and from the Maipo Valley,Chile (warmer climate)).

There is a great selection of top-notch. full-bodied reds on the Winecroft Clublist.  The 2017 Domaine de Fondrèche Ventoux Rouge Persia for example is a very popular recent addition.  14.5% alcohol, 90% Syrah/10% Mourvèdre, from Provence in the balmy south of France.

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