The Event
The Styles of Wines IV
(Medium Body Red Wines)
© by Sheral Schowe
A medium bodied red wine is a style that falls somewhere in between light, fruity, and simple to full, tannic, and rich. Body is the perception of texture and weight of wine on the palate. The elements that contribute to this perception are alcohol, glycerol, acids, and grape extract. Grape extracts impart color from the skins, flavor from the juice and skins, and tannins from the skins and pips, which are the seeds. Tannins are the wine's natural preservatives. When the skins and pips are left in the juice to ferment, the tannins are slowly absorbed into the wine. The winemaker's challenge is getting the wine in proper balance, with just enough sugar, acid, fruit flavor, tannin, and alcohol to create a wine which will reflect the true style of the grape varietal.

Every style of wine has its place, but as a category, medium bodied reds are the most food friendly and capable of enhancing a wider variety of foods. It is difficult to choose specific grape varietals which are always appropriate for this style of wine.

For instance, a Pinot Noir from Germany, called "Spatburgunder," is typically a light, flavorful, and fruity wine. Lacking in tannins, it is rarely capable of aging. A medium bodied version may come from California or Oregon where they can be soft, velvety, and flavorful, but lacking in sufficient tannin to keep it out of the full-bodied category. But the same variety in California, Oregon, and Burgundy, can also produce a wine with enough tannic structure to cellar age successfully over ten years. The designation of "reserve" sometimes indicates a higher level of intensity in the style of a wine. Getting to know the winery's and the winemaker's style can also be helpful in determining the intended body style of the wine. Time spent in the barrel, the age of the vines, where the grapes are grown, are all factors contributing to the level of depth and complexity, texture, and weight of the wine.

Here are a few examples of wines with a medium body, remembering that each of these wines, vinified in a variety of terroir and techniques, are capable of reflecting a fuller bodied style as well:

Boutari Nemea 1997, ($11.10) from Greece is 100% Agiorgitiko grape varietal from Nemea. It is a rustic tasting wine, with a wonderful spiciness, excellent with lamb. Cetamura Chianti 1998, ($12.95) from Italy, is mostly Sangiovese, a perfect choice for pasta with red or meat sauces. Falesco Vitiano 1998 ($11.95) is an equal blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, great with grilled meats. Beringer Pinot Noir 1997 ($14.95) from the North Coast of California, is perfect with grilled salmon. Cline Syrah 1997 from Carneros California and Canoe Ridge Merlot 1997 from the Columbia Valley in Washington are two more medium-bodied reds that our tasting group recommends.

June 27, 2000

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