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Light Bodied White Wine

Andi Healey

Web Manager

 I took some time off last week. And very pleasant it was too!

Em and I usually try and cram so much in to our breaks that we often feel like we need to come back to work for a rest. Not so last week. As the weather was a bit rubbish we didn't feel obliged to spend all our time slaving away at the allotment. A little bit of slaving was done, resulting in the harvest of 15kg of spuds, a couple of lovely watermelons and a large bag of Trinidad Moruga Scorpion chili peppers, these average 1.2 million Scoville Heat Units (compared to the hottest chili in the world, the Carolina Reaper at 1.5 million SHU) so need to be used very sparingly! In fact it's a bit of a challenge to come up with dishes that we can use them in. We also went for lunch, down in Rustington, with the in-laws, drank some nice wine with lunch and had a few siestas. How very continental!

Speaking of wine (I know...., that's what I'm here to do!), I got a lovely bottle of Ferdinand Mayr 2019 Grüner Veltliner, from Aldi, for only £6.99. Lovely and light with succulent pear and white-pepper aromas, followed by nectarine flavours. I'll definitely be stocking up on that one.

This self-indulgent preamble brings me on nicely to the next in my series on the Nine Styles of Wine. Namely,

Light bodied white wine
The body of a wine is the texture and weight of the wine in the mouth. A lighter body is going to feel lighter in weight, thinner like water instead of thick like syrup. A lighter body in a white wine can be defined in three different ways: less residual sugar content, lower alcohol and higher acidity. Alcohol content is the primary contributor to the body of a wine. A higher alcohol content makes a more viscous, heavier, fuller wine, while a lower alcohol content creates the opposite effect. White wines tend to contain less alcohol than red wines overall so they generally have less body, by comparison. Larger amounts of residual sugar also creates a thicker wine. This is the case for two reasons. A greater amount of sugar in a grape means a greater amount of sugar in a wine which will create thickness (think of the sugars creating the textue of syrup). Secondly, during fermentation, it is the sugar that transforms into alcohol. More sugar in the grape means there is more sugar to transform into more alcohol and vice versa. In a dry, light bodied wine, the winemaker will usually convert all the sugars to alcohol to create the dryness. This will also create a higher alcohol content compared to a sweeter light bodied white wine.

When a grape ripens, it moves from containing more acid to containing less acid and more sugar. Grapes that are grown in areas that don't allow them to reach full growth or where they are harvested before full ripeness will produce a wine with more acidity and less sugar and alcohol.

Dry light bodied white wines carry the characteristic of being dry by containing no residual sugar, having converted all the sugar into alcohol in the fermentation process. A dry wine may contain no residual sugar but still taste sweet. This is achieved through harvesting the grapes when they are at the peak of their ripeness where acidity is lower than when unripe. The lack of acidity gives the elusive taste of a sweeter wine. Oaking can also impart into the wine certain flavours and aromas that give the impression of sweetness, such as vanilla, chocolate and licorice.

These are the characteristics of a light bodied dry wine. They feel lighter, crisper and more watery in the mouth and contain relatively lower alcohol levels, compared to a heavier bodied white wine. Because they are dry, they do not contain any sugar by definition but may taste sweeter due to processes or naturally lower acidity. They may also be oaked to infuse them with aromas and flavours that give impression of sweetness.

PINOT GRIGIO (pee-noh GREE-joe) See Grigio, think crisp zesty lemon

Pinto Gris and Grigio are the same grape variety called Gris in France and Grigio in Italy. In the New World, these two names of the same grape variety are used to distinguish between wines holding different characteristics. Pinot Grigio is what the wine is referred to when it is crisp and dry. When the wine is fuller and rich in aroma it will take the name Pinot Gris.

Pinot Grigio tends to take on the character of apples and citrus lemon. This dryer, lighter, crisper style is achieved by harvesting the grape before it fully matures. This allows for a larger acid to sugar content which creates the dryer and lighter body. The Grigio styled wine is kept away from oak aging to maintain its crisp flavour and lighter body. Italian Pinot Grigio's are the ones to purchase for this crisper effect.

PINOT BIANCO (pee-noh bee-AHN-coh)

Pinot Bianco may be the same grape as Pinot Blanc, but its not the same flavour. With Pinot Bianco, think of wrapping your tastebuds around crisp apple, with a little beeswax and some slivers of raw almonds.

This is the Italian name for the Pinot Blanc grape variety. While the grape variety stays the same, the style of wine created from is quite contrasting with the same grape produced in other regions. Pinot Bianco in Italy creates wine that is crispier, lighter and dryer than it would be in other regions. Oak aging is rarely used in Italian Pinot Bianco, to support its lighter character.

Pinot Bianco is usually a medium to light body, dryer, higher acid driven white wine. While Pinot Bianco is a mutation of Pinot Gris and Pinot Gris a mutation of Pinot Noir, the wine produced takes on more floral and mineral qualities than either a Pinot Gris or Noir would. It takes on richer honeyed yellow fruit aromas and flavors and so has been described as being reminiscent of green almond, apple and beeswax.


Highly, intensely aromatic. Capable of creating fine sweet wines in Sauternes, the Sauvignon Blanc grape is equally capable of producing great dry, light bodied wines. Sauvignon Blanc (also called Fume Blanc) has the distinguishing characteristic of creating highly aromatic wines. Depending on the ripeness of the grapes when harvested, more unripe harvesting can lead to intense apple and lime citrus aromas. Ripely picked grapes can encapture grapefruit, green melon and passionfruit. Highly ripe grapes can move towards a more peachy nectarine element. Produced in cooler regions, these aromas can take on more of the vegetal and herb qualities, often that of tarragon, lovage, celery, freshly mowed grass and green peppers, while in warmer regions can move towards the tropical and citrus fruits.

Riedel Vinum Sauvignon Blanc Glasses (Pair) - Stemware

Riedel Vinum Sauvignon Blanc Glasses (Pair)

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Riedel Veritas Sauvignon Blanc Glasses (Pair) - Stemware

Riedel Veritas Sauvignon Blanc Glasses (Pair)

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Mellow out with Apricots and peaches Grenache Blanc is most often seen in blended wines, such as Chateauneuf-Du-Pape Blends, Southern Rhone Blends, Priorat Blends and several other regional wines. Used to soften and provide structure and character to other sharper and highly acid grapes. It tends to contain quite low acidity and suffers because of this. It is increasingly being used as a varietal wine, especially in cooler regions where its acidity tends to be a bit higher than in warmer regions. With its high alcohol and low acidity, this wine provides a mellow and softer texture, high aroma and stone fruit flavours.


Combine the tropical beaches with the wild-flower fields to understand this glass of wine

Bordeaux Blanc, or White Bordeaux, is the name given to a wine blend out of the Bordeaux region made from Semillon with Savignon Blanc and perhaps Muscadelle. It is can be a dry, full-bodied or dry, light bodied wine. The light bodied, dry is the more common, fruitier version. It contains big fruit flavours of citrus, grapefruit and lemon with gooseberry, passionfruit and lime. It also tends to have honeysuckle, honey and grass aspects to its flavours


Stripped down to the simplicity of green apple, pineapple and lemon.

Unoaked Chardonnays show the characteristics of a lighter body and more delicate flavours. These Chardonnays are produced without the butter and vanilla cream sensations of oaking. This leaves the wine stripped of all its extra richness and bares its essentials, green apple, lemon and pineapple like characteristics with a long finish. Chardonnay isn't always stripped of its creaminess. Sometimes an unoaked Chardonnay is still put through the process of transforming its malic acids into lactic acids, a process called Malolactic Fermentation (MLF), therefore producing a creamier texture.

Riedel Vinum Chardonnay Glasses (Set of 8) - Value Pack

Riedel Vinum Chardonnay Glasses (Set of 8)

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Riedel Performance Syrah/Shiraz (Pair) - Stemware

Riedel Performance Syrah/Shiraz (Pair)

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Riesling wines originate in Germany but have expanded to production worldwide and can span a broad range of styles. A Riesling can be produced to be full or light bodied, dry or sweet. Riesling wines are known for their high aromatic quality, with the sweet smell of fruits and florals including apples, nectarines, apricots, peaches, pears, honey and spice. The apple, pear and peach come out in the flavour and can sometimes include more tropical and citrus notes, due to the wine's high acidity. European Rieslings can pick up mineral qualities in the aroma and even in the flavour.

The body and sweetness or dryness of a Riesling can vary from region to region and winery to winery. Germany makes every style of Riesling and this can be reflected in the alcohol content. A lighter bodied, dry Riesling is going to be higher in alcohol, usually well above 11%. Australia produces a majority of the dry, medium to light bodied Rieslings that move towards citrus lime in their aromas and flavours. New Zealand's Rieslings can vary from dry to sweet, lighter in body, and containing mostly citrus notes. In eastern USA, Rieslings tend towards a lighter body, high acidity and bolder flavour. These Rieslings can range from dry to sweet.


Almost exclusive to Austria, Grüner Veltliner can take on two characters.One of a highly acidic, light bodied, fresh, crisp aspect with citrus elements, combined with nutiness and hints of spice, created by its high acidity. The second style of Grüner Veltliner takes a weightier, fuller bodied and more complex nature.

When produced from less ripe grapes, this wine has a distinctive lime flavour. As the grapes ripen more it develops flavours of lemon and grapefruit and at its peak of ripeness, peaches and nectarines..

Riedel Vinum Riesling Glasses (Pair) - Stemware

Riedel Vinum Riesling Glasses (Pair)

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Riedel O Sauvignon Blanc / Riesling / Zinfandel Glasses

Riedel O Sauvignon Blanc / Riesling / Zinfandel Glasses (Pair)

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MUSCADET (moose-cah-day)

Subtle in flavour with a fizzy finish

A dry and crisp wine with a very slight fizzy finish, Muscadet's flavours are very slight. These delicate flavours can cause a subtle flavoured wine or can come out as a bland wine. The process of sur lie is employed to create a richer and creamer texture and to bring out a more complex and less flat taste. The subtle flavours that can be recognized in an Muscadet include apples and citrus and sometimes mineral notes.


Don't be left unimpressed, go for the Classico for almonds and lemon-pear goodness

Soave is an Italian light bodied, dry, medium alcohol white blend wine containing at least 70% Garganego grapes, with no more than 30% Chardonnay and Verdicchio. Producers of Soave have long put quantity over quality and it is difficult to find a really good Soave wine, though there is a turn towards better production in recent years. The quality of a Soave will be reflected in price and region. A Soave from Vento will most likely introduce you to a neutral flavoured and unimpressive wine. To prevent this great disappointment, search for Classico on the label. These are more likely to be Soaves of better quality with better character, giving a you a taste of good acidity, lemon-pear citrus, delicate almond and floral notes. Producers who allow the Malolactic Fermentation process will provide a Soave with a little more creamy fullness.

SANCERRE (sahn-sair)

The distinctly smokey, chalky Sauvignon Blanc.

Sancerre is an area in the Loire Valley of France, known to produce a Sauvignon of crisp high acidity, emphasizing herb and mineral character. Sauvignon Blancs that come from this region have a distinct smokey, chalky character, their gooseberry and citrus fruit components taking a backseat. You may find Sauvignon Blanc from this area marketed under the name Sancerre.

POUILLY FUME (pwee foo-may)

Flinty Gunpowder in a glass.

A dry white wine produced around Pouilly, Loire Valley, France, from Sauvignon Blanc grapes. These wines are famed for their more flinty, gunpowder smokey aroma. They are highly acidic with mineral character over gooseberry and citrus fruits.

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Riedel Sommeliers Loire / Sauvignon Blanc Glass - Stemware

Riedel Sommeliers Loire / Sauvignon Blanc Glass

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So there you go, in a nutshell, light bodied white wines are lighter in colour, generally have high acidity and are best drunk young and cold!

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