Exploring Light Bodied Red Wines

Having just completed a series on light, medium and full bodied white wines, it's now time to transition to exploring red wines.

But first, just a quick review of the term 'body' as it relates to wine.  The four major components of a wine's body are formed by the alcohol level, the acidity, the tannin and the sweetness. While white wines have no tannin, red wines are going to have varying levels of tannin and this is really what sets them apart from white wines.

One might think that a rosé wine might be the perfect transition between white wine and red wines. After all, they are pink. And to some extent a rosé certainly does have a bit of both worlds. And that primarily comes from the fact that a rosé wine spends just a bit of time after it's pressed with the skins of the red grapes that they are produced from. That's what gives a rosé its pink color and just a very faint hint of tannin. But that's where the comparison ends. Rosé is going to have a lot more in common with white wine. It's going to have bright and crisp fruit flavors of strawberry and melon, mouth-watering acidity and be quite refreshing. 

The best place to start exploring red wines is with those that are light bodied. But in the past, light bodied red wines were often ignored. And some still are. Take Gamay for example. This grape makes a light, refreshing wine best known from the Beaujolais region of France.  Part of the reason that Gamay often gets ignored is the Beaujolais Nouveau that goes from vine to bottle in just a couple months. These wines are big in fruit and meant for celebrating the harvest, not for aging. This is not a wine for serious wine connoisseurs, collectors or critics. It's simply meant for celebration. So it is not taken too seriously by the wine elite.

But Gamay, of which more than 90% is grown in France, is also a serious grape for producing fine light red wine.  These wines can have flavors of raspberry, red currant, cherry, strawberry and boysenberry. A Gamay wine is very low in tannin and is generally made relatively low in alcohol by volume (ABV). Hence, the light bodied classification. Serve Gamay with a slight chill and you'll find it to be a bright fruit flavored wine with great perfumed aromas.

Next time we'll continue exploring light bodied red wines by getting into the wildly popular Pinot Noir. Until then, cheers!