If I may quote The Art and Science of Wine by James Halliday and Hugh Johnson, "...the distinguishing feature of full-bodied red is the authority it has on the finish." Reading this line recently, it hit me like a rock. When I first moved to Napa, one of the best (in my humble opinion) winemakers in Napa told me that the component that made a full-bodied wine was the finish: it should be strong and lingering. At the time, I had no idea what he was talking about, but now... in my 1 and half years of being forced to drink a lot of Napa Cabernet, I'd have to say, I understand. A finish that falls short when the entrance and mid-palate of the wine are full makes the wine appear weak. But a Cabernet with a lingering finish will remind the drinker of its elegance for years. So the story of Cabernets, primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, begins...
A Full-Bodied Red Requires Thought and Patience
Cabernet Sauvignon is the principal variety that produces a "Full-Bodied Red" wine. What Cabernet Sauvignon lacks, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec make up the difference. These five varieties make up a traditional Bordeaux wine in varying concentrations and in any percentage. Traditionally, Cabernet Sauvignon makes up the majority, or base wine.
The "full-body" comes primarily from the tannins. Generally speaking, in its youth Cabernet Sauvignon will be aggressive, harsh, bitter, overly astringent, and sometimes green in flavor. As the wine ages, the tannins will smooth out, making the wine softer, less aggressive, and more pleasant. Additionally, the flavors will change. The young, red fruit initially exhibited by Cabernet will mature into deep, complex black fruit and elegant flavors. Such is the point to aging Cabernet for many, many years.
Additional Full-Bodied Red Varieties:
1) Cabernet Franc
3) Petit Verdot
Food Pairings with Full-Bodied Reds:
5) game birds & venison
8) hard cheeses