Full Bodied Red Wines

We've explored the various styles of white wines and made it through the light and medium bodied reds. Now it's time to take the final step and look at the big, full bodied red wines.

These full bodied reds are going to be very dark in color, have rich fruit flavors, moderate to high acidity and big tannin. And it's often the tannin in young full bodied reds that will turn people away from these wines. But, given a little breathing space in a decanter, or a few years of cellar time, these can be the best of all wines.

Full bodied red wines are going to be centered around the black fruit flavors of plum, black cherry, fig, boysenberry, black currant, blackberry, raisin and include other flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, leather, tobacco, pepper, and even tar.

Full bodied red wines include:

  • Malbec, Mourvèdre, Nebbiolo and Tempranillo
  • Bordeaux blends (primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot)
  • Rhone Blends including Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre)
  • Italian Super Tuscan blends (Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah
  • Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah and Syrah

Again, it's the tannin that will play a huge role in these full bodied reds.  And tannin is the reason these wines go so well with a steak or other fatty foods.  The tannin acts to cleanse the fats and proteins that collect on your tongue leaving you with a wonderful mouth-feel and an amazing lingering finish. On one end of the scale tannin can be described a 'chewy,' 'muscular,' 'grippy,' or 'firm' and on the other end you may hear words such as 'smooth,' 'soft,' and 'velvety.' Regardless of which end of the spectrum the tannin falls, it is key to the structure of the wine and it's ability to age.

Tannin often gets a bad rap for causing headaches. But if you believe that it's the tannin you need to avoid in red wine, you are also going to have to avoid tea, dark chocolate, nuts, pomegranate, squash, chickpeas, red beans and apple juice all of which all have significant natural tannin.

If you find upon opening a bottle of full bodied red that the tannin is a bit harsh, give it an hour in a decanter that allows the wine maximum surface area for exposure to the air. Quite often you'll find that this will soften it out and make it less harsh. Or, lay the bottle down in a properly controlled cellar or wine refrigerator for five to ten years. The tannin in these big reds will soften with age and reward your patients with a really nice, smooth wine.

Pair one of these full bodied red wines with a nice steak or some flavorful cheese and enjoy. Cheers!