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How to Pair Full-Bodied, Medium-Bodied, and Light-Bodied Wines with Food

Humans, oceans, wine: it’s always about that body, baby! This post is meant to explain how to pair food with wine, whether the wine be full-bodied, medium-bodied, or light-bodied, and why.

For the most part, there are just four wine qualities you need to think about when it comes to pairing wine with food: body, acidity, sweetness, and tannin (aka bitterness). In this quick beginner’s series, we’ll cover each quality over the course of four posts, starting with the most important of all: body.

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How To Pair Food With Wine Body

Colors matter to an extent, but what you really want to do is pair the weight of the food with the weight (body) of the wine.

What does this mean? In a nutshell, bold goes with bold, delicate with delicate, light with light, rich with rich, and so on.

In a wine, body can almost always be determined by the alcohol content (ABV). Full-bodied wines tend to have a high ABV, while light-bodied wines have a lower ABV. 

As a food pairing rule of thumb:

  • High ABV wines go with rich, bold foods.
  • Low ABV wines go with delicate, lighter foods.

The reason for this is simple: you want the wine and the food to shine together as a unit. You want them to be balanced, not opposing forces. 

As a real world example, you would never pair a Vinho Verde — a light white wine that clocks in around 7-10% ABV — with a fatty, robust filet mignon. The steak would annihilate the delicate structure and taste of the wine. Similarly, you would never pair a big, bold red Bordeaux with a plate of sashimi. You might as well be eating very expensive textured air.

But what ABV range separates the delicate from the bold? In general, you can assume the following:

  • Under 12% ABV = Light-bodied
  • Between 12%-13.5% ABV= Medium-bodied
  • 13.5% and over ABV = Full-bodied

Now keep in mind, the same grape varietal can be light- or full-bodied depending on the wine region and winemaking technique. For example, Chardonnay can be full-bodied (13.5%+ ABV) or light-bodied (under 12% ABV). You always need to look at the ABV and wine region to make sure.

With all of this in mind, let’s see some examples of full, medium, and light-bodied wines as well as recipes to go along with each type of wine!

Full-Bodied Wines

Full-Bodied Whites

  • Burgundy Chardonnay
  • Viognier
  • Rousanne
  • White Bordeaux

Full-Bodied Reds

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Red Bordeaux
  • Petit Verdot
  • Tannat
  • Syrah

Recipes for Full-Bodied Wines

Medium-Bodied Wines

Medium-Bodied Whites

  • Champagne
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio
  • Albariño
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Gewürztraminer

Medium-Bodied Reds

  • GSM blends
  • Merlot
  • Tempranillo
  • Nebbiolo
  • Nero d’Avola
  • Sangiovese

Recipes for Medium-Bodied Wines

Light-Bodied Wines

Light-Bodied Whites

  • Vinho Verde
  • Prosecco
  • Moscato/Muscat
  • Soave
  • Reisling

Light-Bodied Reds

  • Gamay
  • Pinot Noir
  • Bobal
  • Lambrusco
  • Schiava
  • Carignan

Recipes for Light-Bodied Wines

What Else Do I Need To Know About Wine Body?

As I mentioned earlier, aside from body, there are three other wine qualities that are super important when it comes to pairing: acidity, sugar, and tannin (aka bitterness). So if you want to have all of the knowledge, read on, wine-os!

Read Next: How to Pair Acidic Wine like Sauvignon Blanc with Food


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