Full Bodied Red Wine: Top 10 Most Popular Varietals

full bodied red wine

The term "full-bodied" refers to the weight and texture of the wine in your mouth. And it can be often described as a "chewy" or "textured" feel. But it typically has a rich and full texture that coats the palate and lingers long after each sip. This weight is usually achieved through a combination of factors, including higher alcohol content, more tannins, and a greater concentration or flavors of fruit.

A full-bodied red wine is a popular choice among wine enthusiasts who enjoy robust and bold flavors. These wines are typically made from red grape varieties that have thick skins, high tannins, and deep colors. They are often aged in oak barrels, which can add additional complexity and depth to the wine.

Some of the most popular full-bodied red wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Zinfandel. These wines are often produced in warmer climates, where the grapes can ripen fully and develop their signature bold flavors.

pinot noir vs cabernet

Table of Contents

10 Most Popular Full Bodied Red Wine Varietals

1) Cabernet Sauvignon

justin cabernet sauvignon tasting notes

Cabernet Sauvignon is the most famous full-bodied red wine in the world. It has a rich and robust flavor profile, with dark fruit flavors, high tannins, and aging potential. Cabernet Sauvignon is often aged in oak barrels, which can add additional flavors of vanilla, toast, and spice. And it’s grown in many regions around the world, including California, Bordeaux, and Australia.

2) Merlot

duckhorn merlot flavors

Merlot is another popular full-bodied red wine that is known for its smooth and velvety texture. And it has fruit forward flavors of black cherry, plum, and chocolate. Plus it can be blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to create a Bordeaux-style red wine. Due to its versatility, it’s grown in many regions around the world, including Bordeaux, California, and Washington State.

3) Syrah/Shiraz

shiraz wine taste

Syrah, also known as Shiraz, is a full-bodied red wine that is commonly produced in warmer climates such as Australia, France, and California. It has a rich, dark color and is characterized by its peppery and spicy flavors, with notes of blackberry, black currant, and leather.

4) Zinfandel

best zinfandel tasting notes

Zinfandel is a full-bodied red wine that is known for its bold and jammy flavors of blackberry, raspberry, and black cherry. And it’s most commonly associated with California, where the warm climate allows the grapes to fully ripen and develop their intense flavors.

5) Malbec

French Malbec taste Flavors

Originally from France but now widely grown in Argentina, Malbec produces full-bodied red wines. And it has a deep, dark color and is known for its flavors of black cherry, plum, chocolate, and tobacco. Malbec is often aged in oak barrels, which can add additional flavors of vanilla and spice.

6) Petite Sirah

Petite Sirah Wine tasting notes

Petite Sirah is a full-bodied red wine that is often grown in California, where it is called Durif. And it has a deep, dark color that is characterized by its rich and jammy dark fruit flavors of blackberry, blueberry, and plum. Also it typically has high tannins and is often aged in oak barrels, which can add additional complexity to the wine.

7) Tempranillo

Tempranillo flavors

This grape produces full-bodied red wines with flavors of dark fruit, leather, and tobacco. And it’s the primary grape used in Spain’s famous Rioja region. Plus its thick skins contain a high concentration of tannins that add to the weight of the wine. In addition to its tannic structure, Tempranillo typically has high acidity and a complex flavor profile that can include notes of black fruit, leather, tobacco, and vanilla.

8) Sangiovese

Sangiovese is the primary grape in Italy’s Chianti region and produces full-bodied red wines that are incredibly food friendly. It has bright acidity, high tannins, and flavors of dark cherry, raspberry, and spice. Also Sangiovese can be enjoyed as a single variety wine, or blended with other Italian grapes, to create complex full-bodied reds.

9) Barolo

producing wines

Barolo is one of Italy’s most famous premium full-bodied red wines. It is made from the Nebbiolo grape variety, which is known for its high tannins and acidity. Barolo is typically aged for several years in oak barrels, which contributes to its complexity and full-bodied nature.

And its also characterized by its flavors of dark fruit, tar, leather, and spice. These flavors, along with the wine’s high tannins and acidity, create a wine with a robust and weighty mouthfeel.

10) Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc is a full-bodied red wine that is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to create Bordeaux-style wines. It has bold tannins and dark fruit flavors of blackberry and cassis, along with herbaceous notes of green pepper and flowers. Plus it’s commonly aged in oak barrels, which can add additional flavors of vanilla, toast, and spice.

Best Food Pairing with a Full Bodied Red Wine

full bodied red wine pairing

Full-bodied wines tend to pair well with hearty and rich dishes that can stand up to the wine’s bold flavors and high tannins. Here are some foods that you might consider pairing with full-bodied red wines:

  1. Red meat: Full-bodied red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah pair particularly well with red meat dishes such as steak, roast beef, lamb, and venison. These wines have the tannins to bring out the juicy, rich flavors of the meat.
  2. Hard cheeses: Full-bodied red wines can also pair well with strong and flavorful cheeses, such as aged cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and aged gouda. The tannins in the wine can help to cut through the richness/fattiness of the aged cheeses, while the cheese can complement the wine’s intensity.
  3. Grilled or roasted vegetables: If you’re looking for a vegetarian pairing, consider grilled or roasted vegetables such as eggplant, mushrooms, and bell peppers. The smoky flavors of the vegetables can complement the bold flavors of full-bodied red wines, while the vegetables’ texture can match the wine’s weight.
  4. Dark chocolate: For a decadent dessert pairing, consider pairing full-bodied red wines with dark chocolate. The bitterness of the chocolate can complement the wine’s tannins, while the chocolate’s sweetness can balance out the wine’s acidity.

Overall, the key to pairing full-bodied red wines with food is to find dishes that can stand up to the wine’s bold flavors and weight. Keep these general guidelines in mind, but don’t be afraid to experiment with different pairings to find your own personal favorites.

How do Winemakers Make Full-Bodied Red Wines?

Winemakers can use several techniques to make full-bodied wines, depending on the grape varietals they are using and the desired flavor profile. Here are some common techniques used by winemakers to create full-bodied wines:

  1. Extended maceration: Maceration is the process of soaking the grape skins in the juice during fermentation to extract color, tannins, and flavors. Extended maceration involves leaving the skins in contact with the juice for a longer period, which can result in higher tannin and color extraction, and a fuller-bodied wine.
  2. Barrel aging: Aging wine in oak barrels can add flavors such as vanilla, toast, and spice, as well as contribute to the wine’s body and mouthfeel. The type of oak and the length of aging can influence the character of the wine.
  3. Blending: Winemakers can blend different grape varietals to create a wine with a more complex flavor profile and fuller body. For example, blending Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot can result in a wine with higher tannins and a more full-bodied structure.
  4. Harvest decisions: Winemakers can choose to harvest grapes later in the season when they are riper, resulting in higher sugar and alcohol levels, which can contribute to a fuller-bodied wine.
  5. Malolactic fermentation: This is a secondary fermentation that can convert tart malic acid into softer lactic acid, resulting in a smoother and fuller-bodied wine.


What is the most full-bodied red?

It’s difficult to determine the “most” full-bodied red wine as it ultimately comes down to how it’s made. However, some red wines are generally considered to be more full-bodied than others.

One of the most full-bodied red wines is typically considered to be Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Sauvignon is known for its rich and robust flavor profile, high tannins, and full-bodied structure.

Other red wines that are often considered to be full-bodied include Syrah/Shiraz, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and Malbec. It’s important to note that the specific characteristics of a wine can vary depending on factors such as winemaking style, climate, and vineyard practices, so it’s always best to try different wines and find the ones that suit your personal taste preferences.

Is full-bodied red wine sweet or dry?

Dry, for the most part.

However, full-bodied red wine can be either sweet or dry, as sweetness is not necessarily an indicator of a wine’s body. Body refers to the weight and mouthfeel of a wine, which is determined by factors such as alcohol content, tannins, and acidity. A full-bodied wine will typically have a heavier, more substantial mouthfeel compared to a lighter-bodied wine.

Sweetness, on the other hand, refers to the residual sugar content of a wine. Some full-bodied red wines, such as Port (a fortified dessert wine), will have a sweeter taste due to residual sugar. However, many full-bodied red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec are dry, meaning they have little to no residual sugar.

Is Merlot a full-bodied red wine?

Merlot is generally considered a medium to full-bodied red wine, although this can depend on the winemaker’s style and the region where the wine is produced. Merlot has a smooth and velvety texture and is known for its flavors of black cherry, plum, and chocolate. It typically has lower tannins compared to other full-bodied red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah/Shiraz.

Is a pinot noir full-bodied?

Pinot Noir is generally considered a lighter-bodied red wine, but some styles can be considered medium to full-bodied. Pinot Noir is grown in many regions around the world and is known for its delicate and complex flavor profile, which can vary depending on factors such as climate, soil, and winemaking techniques.

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