Can a wine be light-bodied and still have a “round mouthfeel”?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Can a wine be light-bodied and still have a “round mouthfeel”?

Leah B., Montreal, Quebec

Dear Leah,

Absolutely. Both of these terms refer to the way a wine feels in your mouth, but one refers specifically to weight and the other to texture. Weight and texture are both created by the relationship among the elements of wine such as acid, tannin, alcohol and glycerol. But I’ve had wines of various weights paired with various textures.

A wine’s weight is just what it sounds like—how heavy it feels. The easiest way to describe it is to think of the differences among skim milk, whole milk and cream. The skim milk will feel light, the cream will feel heavy and the whole milk will be comparatively medium-bodied.

So then there is texture. A wine can be round, firm, gripping, smooth, coarse, velvety, silky or any of the many other ways to describe how the texture of the elements feels against your tongue and cheeks. Sometimes what makes a wine interesting is how dynamic it can be among the various parts of its personality. It can have power yet maintain elegance. Maybe it starts off smooth but finishes with gripping tannins. Or maybe despite being only medium-bodied, it has a round mouthfeel.

If it feels strange for you to pair those descriptors together, perhaps you can look into extending your vocabulary. Maybe instead of “round” you could have used “smooth” or “supple”? There are no wrong ways to describe wine, but find the words that seem most natural for you.

—Dr. Vinny

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