Measuring the Weight of Wine

Measuring the Weight of Wine

The "weight" of wine is a term often used to describe its intensity.  It refers to the overall body of a wine, as measured by the perceived weight in your mouth (light, medium, or heavy).  Vineyard characteristics offer significant clues about what to expect in the body, or weight of wine.  The largest contributors are typically climate and elevation.

Cool Climate Wines

Cool climate grape varietals have evolved over time to ripen in conditions of lower temperatures and sunlight. Their skin is thinner in order to allow in more light to ripen the fruit.  The skin of the grape will determine color, acidity, tannin, and sugar levels in finished wine.  Cool region wines are typically lighter in color and higher in acidity.  Ultimate ripeness is lower, resulting in lower sugar and alcohol levels.  Lower ABV (alcohol by volume) generally results in wines that are less fruit forward, lighter, elegant, and approachable in their youth.

Warm Climate Wines

Warm climate grape varietals have evolved over time to ripen in conditions of higher temperatures and abundant sunshine.  Their skin is thicker to protect the fruit, so the wines are deeper colored.  Higher tannin, sugar, and alcohol levels result in a wine with a weight typically heavier than cool climate wines.  Warm climate wines require more time in the cellar to soften tannins and make them more approachable.

Pinot Noir grown in Sonoma is a great example of the effect of climate on wine.  True Sonoma Coast wines near the Pacific Ocean are grown from colder climate vineyards than those located inland.  Vineyards in this location typically produce Pinot that is lower intensity than Pinot grown from vineyards inland.


Higher elevation typically means slightly lower temperatures and rocky soils.  The soil is generally more of a factor with vineyards located in higher elevation.  Soil that is less nutrient rich and rocky puts some stress on vines.  Yields are lower.  Berries are smaller, meaning more grape skins are combined into the wine.  A higher ratio of skin in the grape juice makes for a bolder wine.  

Cabernet grown on Howell Mountain is a great example of the effect of elevation on wine.  Vineyards in this location typically produce Cabernet that is higher intensity than those located on the Napa Valley floor.

More wine discussion coming soon to the Sello Blog.  

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