What Does Full-Bodied Wine Mean?

Photo of author

By: Tom Valenti


There are some quite new and confusing terms for individuals who have just accessed the wine world. You hear people say “full-bodied” to describe wine. But what does “full-bodied” actually mean?

Full-bodied wine is a term used to describe wines with a rich, full, and weighty mouthfeel, often with high alcohol content. 

To better understand Full-Bodied Wine, why they have such a name, based on what characteristics of alcohol are, let us learn them based on the following factors.

Importance of Understanding Full-Bodied Wine

Importance of understanding full-bodied wine

Understanding full-bodied wine is essential for anyone who wants to fully appreciate and enjoy the wine-drinking experience due to some reasons. 

First and foremost, it enhances your wine-drinking experience. Full-bodied wines are known for their rich flavors and textures, and by understanding what makes them unique, you can better appreciate and enjoy the wine you’re drinking.

In addition to enhancing your enjoyment of wine, understanding full-bodied wines can also help you make better food pairings

Full-bodied wines tend to pair well with hearty, flavorful dishes such as steak, stews, and roasted meats. This is because the rich flavors and textures of the wine can stand up to the bold flavors of these dishes, creating a harmonious balance.

Another reason why understanding full-bodied wine is important because it can help you make more informed purchasing decisions. 

By knowing what to look for in a full-bodied wine, you can choose wines that suit your tastes and preferences. You can also better navigate wine lists when dining out and make more informed choices when shopping for wine.

Finally, understanding full-bodied wine is essential for anyone who wants to deepen their knowledge and appreciation of wine. 

By learning about the different styles of wine and what makes them unique, you can become a more knowledgeable and confident wine drinker. This can enhance your social experiences and allow you to share your passion for wine with others.

Characteristics of Full-Bodied Wine

Characteristics of Full-Bodied Wine

Flavor Profile

Full-bodied wines tend to have a rich and complex flavor profile, with a heavier mouthfeel and a higher alcohol content. Some common flavor characteristics of full-bodied wines include

  • Dark fruit: Full-bodied wines are often characterized by their dark fruit flavors, such as blackberry, blackcurrant, and plum.
  • Spices: Full-bodied wines may also have spicy notes, such as cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper.
  • Oak: Many full-bodied wines are aged in oak barrels, which can impart flavors of vanilla, caramel, and toasted wood.
  • Tannins: Full-bodied wines tend to have higher tannin levels, creating a drying sensation in the mouth.
  • Earthy notes: Some full-bodied wines may also have earthy flavors, such as leather, tobacco, or mushrooms.

Related: Identifying Flavors In Wine


A weighty and viscous texture on the palate typically characterizes the mouthfeel of full-bodied wine. These wines tend to have a more substantial mouthfeel than lighter-bodied wines, which can be described as thin or watery by comparison.

The high alcohol content in full-bodied wines also contributes to their mouthfeel, as it can create a slight burning or warming sensation in the mouth. 

Full-bodied wines may also have noticeable tannins, creating a dry or astringent sensation in the mouth. This can give the wine a certain grip or roughness that some wine lovers enjoy, while others may find it unpleasant.

Alcohol Content

Typically, full-bodied red wines have a higher alcohol content than white wines, ranging from 13.5% to 16% alcohol by volume (ABV).

Some examples of full-bodied red wines and their typical alcohol content are:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: 13.5% – 15%
  • Merlot: 13.5% – 15.5%
  • Syrah/Shiraz: 14% – 15.5%
  • Zinfandel: 14% – 16%
  • Malbec: 13.5% – 15.5%

It’s important to note that the alcohol content listed on a wine label may only be partially accurate, as it can vary slightly depending on factors such as the grape harvest timing and the fermentation process. However, the alcohol content listed on the label should be within 1.5% of the actual ABV.

Tannin Levels

Full-bodied wines typically have higher tannin levels than lighter-bodied wines. Tannins are natural compounds found in grape skins, seeds, and stems that can create a dry, astringent sensation in the mouth. Tannins also play a role in a wine’s structure, helping to give it depth, complexity, and age-ability.

Grape Variety

Full-bodied wines can be made from various red and white grape varieties. Here are some examples of grape varieties used to make full-bodied wines: Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah/Shiraz, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Roussanne….

Examples of Full-Bodied Wines

Here are some examples of full-bodied wines, both red and white:

Red Wines:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: high tannins, dark fruit flavors, and a long finish.
  • Merlot: softer tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon, with black cherry and plum flavors.
  • Syrah/Shiraz: bold, spicy flavors, high tannins, and deep color.
  • Zinfandel: rich, jammy fruit flavors and high alcohol content.
  • Malbec: medium to high tannins, dark fruit flavors, and a smoky finish.
  • Cabernet Franc: medium to high tannins and flavors of blackberry, black cherry, and sometimes bell pepper.

White Wines:

  • Chardonnay: flavors of butter, vanilla, and oak, and a creamy mouthfeel.
  • Viognier: floral aromas, flavors of apricot and peach, and a hint of spice.
  • Roussanne: flavors of honey, pear, and spice, often with a waxy texture.
  • Marsanne: flavors of ripe stone fruit, honey, and nuts, and a slightly oily texture.

Food Pairings for Full-Bodied Wines

Full-bodied wines tend to have bold flavors and high tannins, making them a good match for hearty and flavorful dishes. 

Red Wines:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Pair with grilled or roasted meats, especially beef, lamb, or venison. It also pairs well with strong cheeses like blue cheese.
  • Merlot: Pairs well with grilled or roasted meats, stews, and tomato-based dishes.
  • Syrah/Shiraz: Pairs well with spicy dishes, roasted meats, and game meats like venison or wild boar.
  • Zinfandel: Pairs well with barbecue, spicy dishes, and hearty stews.
  • Malbec: Pairs well with beef dishes like steak or burgers, and spicy dishes like chili or mole sauce.
  • Cabernet Franc: Pairs well with roasted meats, lamb, and grilled vegetables.

White Wines:

  • Chardonnay: Pairs well with roasted chicken, fish, lobster, and creamy pasta dishes.
  • Viognier: Pairs well with spicy Asian dishes, grilled pork or chicken, and rich seafood dishes like lobster or crab.
  • Roussanne: Pairs well with roasted meats, fish dishes with buttery or creamy sauces, and dishes with strong flavors like truffles or mushrooms.
  • Marsanne: Pairs well with roasted chicken, pork, or fish dishes and dishes with rich sauces like beurre blanc or hollandaise.

Remember, these are just suggestions; the best food pairing for a full-bodied wine depends on your personal taste preferences.

Tips for Choosing a Quality Full-Bodied Wine

By following these tips, you can increase your chances of choosing a quality full-bodied wine that you will enjoy.

  1. Consider the region
  2. Check the vintage
  3. Look for producer reputation
  4. Read reviews
  5. Taste before you buy
  6. Look for quality indicators


Does Full-Bodied Wine Mean Dry?

Due to its high tannin content, it typically leaves a drying aftertaste.

What Is The Difference Between Light And Full – Bodied Wine?

The main difference between light-bodied and full-bodied wines is their weight and intensity on the palate.

Is Full-Bodied Wine Sweet?

Full-bodied wine is not necessarily sweet, as sweetness and body are two separate characteristics of wine. While some full-bodied wines can have a hint of sweetness due to residual sugar or the use of oak aging, not all full-bodied wines are sweet.

Is Pinot Or Sauvignon Sweeter?

Sauvignon Blanc is typically considered to be a drier wine than Pinot Noir. Sauvignon Blanc tends to have high acidity and is often fermented to produce a dry wine.

Why Are Cabernet Sauvignon So Expensive?

The combination of limited availability, extended aging, high production costs, and strong brand recognition can contribute to Cabernet Sauvignon wines’ high price.


In conclusion, understanding full-bodied wine is essential for anyone who wants to appreciate and enjoy the complexities of wine fully. Understanding the characteristics and flavor profile of full-bodied wines allows you to make better food pairings, make informed purchasing decisions, and deepen your knowledge and appreciation of wine. Full-bodied wines offer a rich and complex flavor that can stand up to bold and hearty dishes, making them the perfect choice for special occasions or indulging in a luxurious glass of wine. Therefore, take the time to learn about full-bodied wines and explore the different varieties available to enhance your wine-drinking experience.

Photo of author

Tom Valenti

Chef/Owner of both Ouest and ‘Cesca, and the Executive Chef of Le Cirque, Alison on Dominick, and Butterfield 81.

Leave a Comment