Exploring Medium Bodied Red Wines

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Recent posts have addressed light bodied red wines including two of the most common, Gamay and Pinot Noir. Light bodied red wines have bright red fruit flavor and little to no tannin.  But looking across all red wines you'll find very few that are light bodied. On the other hand, not all red wines are big and bold either. So let's take a look at medium bodied reds.

Many medium bodied red wines continue with red fruit flavors such as cherry, raspberry, cranberry and strawberry, but what sets them apart is tannin. If you're not familiar with tannin, it is an astringent compound that comes from the grape's skin, seeds and stems as well as wood barrels. Tannin is responsible for the characteristic of producing a mouth-drying sensation.  Tannin builds character in red wines and allows them to age well.

So, just as you might expect, a medium bodied red wine will have medium levels of fruit flavor, acidity and tannin. And, as described previously, the terroir and the winemaker can have a big influence on the style of wine produced from the same grape. Cool growing climates tend to produce lighter bodied wines while warmer climates lead to bolder wines. And oak aging will also influence a red wine's flavor with new oak adding flavor and neutral oak yielding little to no additional flavors.

Although the Sangiovese grape can be made into light bodied Chianti, it can also produce medium bodied wines. While Chianti is aged a minimum of six months, Chianti Classico is aged for one year and Chianti Reserva is aged two years.  This additional aging smooths out the acidity and produces a bolder wine.

Another example of a grape capable of producing a light bodied wine as well as a medium bodied wine is Pinot Noir. As previously described, the Pinot Noir grape, when grown in warmer climates such as Oregon's Willamette Valley, produces a fuller bodied wine.

Medium bodied red wines also begin the transition to flavors of black fruits including plum, black cherry, black currant, blueberry and blackberry.  These flavors are evident in Barbera, Grenache, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Zinfandel. The moderate tannins attributable to all these grapes gives them a smooth mouth-feel and allows the fruit flavors to shine through.

Medium bodied red wines are great for food pairings due to their acidity and tannin. They work well with beef, pork, cured meats and even chicken.  As always, the key to pairings wines with meats is to pair them with the overall flavor of the meal that often includes sauces. So, you might not think of pairing a medium red with chicken, unless its got a flavorful sauce (e.g., Coq Au Vin). Then a red wine works quite well.

As mentioned earlier, medium bodied red wines age well due to the compounds in tannin. These reds can easily age for three to five years under proper wine storage conditions. Serve these reds at a cellar temperature of approximately 60 degrees F (not room temperature) in a large wide-mouth wine glass and store any leftover wine in an air evacuate bottle in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days for best flavor. Cheers!