What do you mean when you say that a wine is full-bodied or medium-bodied?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

What do you mean when you say that a wine is full-bodied or medium-bodied?

—Rima, Kolkata, India

Dear Rima,

“Body” and “weight” are used somewhat interchangeably in wine-speak, referring to how heavy or viscous a wine feels in your mouth. It comes from a combination of alcohol, extract, tannins, glycerol, acidity and residual sugar (if any is left over after fermentation).

When talking about body, a simple example is to compare skim milk (light-bodied), whole milk (medium-bodied) and cream (full-bodied). Those are good baselines, but there are many more shades of body—like how adding milk or cream to your coffee or tea will make it a touch fuller. Or how coconut milk is heavier than coconut water, or pale ale is lighter-bodied than stout.

—Dr. Vinny

How to Taste Tasting Descriptors Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

Once chilled, must a wine stay chilled? Is it ruined if it warms up again?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny debunks the myth that wine shouldn't be chilled and then …

Jun 27, 2022

Does Pinot Noir come in both red and white versions? Are they the same grape?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how red wines get their color. (Hint: It's not …

Jun 22, 2022

If you're supposed to hold a wineglass by the stem, why are stemless glasses so popular?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert Dr. Vinny explains the pros and cons of stemless …

Jun 13, 2022

How much do our taste buds influence our perception of wine?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert Dr. Vinny explains how taste sensitivity impacts our …

Jun 6, 2022

What's the shelf life of a box of wine?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, explains why box wines aren't meant to …

May 31, 2022

Should I refill my own wineglass, or ask the host or server to?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the etiquette or wine service, for hosts and for …

May 23, 2022