Most people know that a pinot noir is a light bodied red wine, while a cabernet sauvignon is a heavy bodied wine, but not many can name the wines that fall in-between these two markers, the medium bodied varieties. We’ve looked a lot at wine characteristics and how to pair wines with different foods, but one of the most common ways people like to reference their wine preference is with a simple light, medium or heavy.
The infographic below, produced by the wine makers Kendall Jackson, looks at wine in exactly this way, starting with the light bodied wines, such as Gamay, and heading to the heaviest wines like Malbec and Durif.
It’s a great starting point if there’s a wine you know you like and you want to try grapes that sit in a similar family of light, medium or heavy. Below a few examples of red wine classified by their category.
Red Wine Type Chart: From Light to Full Bodied
Gamay is a great example of a light bodied red wine and a more affordable cousin to pinot noir. It's an accessible and aromatic wine produced around the world in cool climate countries like Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand and France, with plenty of red berries and dark fruit on the nose.
Gamay's more elegant cousin, pinot noir is a popular and versatile light to medium bodied wine also produced around the world in countries including US, France, Italy, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. It's packed with red fruits like raspberries and cherries on the nose and delivers a long smooth finish on the palate.
Moving up the scale into medium bodied wines, Nebbiolo is a fine example, found in Mexico, US, Piedmont in Italy and Australia. Nebbiolo might look like pinot noir in a glass but it delivers more complexity than it first presents, with cherry and raspberry and almost herbaceous flavourssupported by robust tannins and high acidity.
Another medium-body wine, Carnigan, has fruit-forward flavours and a balanced profile that can pair well with bold dishes or subtle ones. It is at its best when paired with rich poultry dishes such as turkey or duck. It is mostly produced in Southern France.
Cabernet franc also falls in the middle of the spectrum, but is set apart by its higher acidity, which means it can pair well with dishes containing tomatoes, vinegars, beans, or lentils. It most likely originated in France’s Basque Country.
Merlot brings us up to the next rung in the ladder of fullness, with ebullient black cherry notes that pair well with lamb, veal, or goat cheese. The flavour profile of this versatile wine can vary based on where the grapes are grown: France, Italy, Chile, California, or even China.
Medium-full tempranillo is synonymous with Spain, specifically the La Rioja winemaking region. The wine can age to up to 20 years in oak. Its more mature varieties pair well with meaty dishes like gourmet burgers, while younger versions pair well with pastas or roasted peppers.
Shiraz or syrah is another popular medium to full bodied all round favourite produced in both new and old world wine producing countries, from the US and Australia to Spain and France. Expect plenty of dark fruit and pepper and firm tannins in a glass from this bold ruby hue coloured wine.
And finally, Malbec is a wonderful example of a world famous full bodied red wine. It's produced in Chile and France, but Argentina leads the production of the grape. It's an easy drinking medium tannin wine presenting fruits like black cherry, pomegranate, plum and raisin.
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