Understanding ‘Body’ in Turkish Wines

“Body” strikes one as a strange word to use to describe a liquid. One thinks of body as something solid. However, one [of the many!] definition describes it as the “consistency, denseness, or richness” of a substance. And it is that definition we mean when we talk about the “body” of a wine. Body is how wine feels in your mouth.

Like a human has different parts that make up the physical body, so too does wine have different parts that make up its body. It’s not arms, legs, organs, and such of course. For wine, it is:

  • Alcohol
  • Sugar
  • Tannin
  • Extract
  • Winemaking choices (malolactic conversion, oak ageing, etc)
  • Grape variety

All of these things affect how dense or rich a wine feels in your mouth. Wines with higher alcohol or sugar content can feel heavier and even thicker in your mouth. Tannins, which come from grape skins, seeds, and stems, add texture and weight to wine. Imagine them akin to muscles in a person. The more muscled the person the stronger (and often larger) he/she is. Same with wine. The more tannins, the fuller the body.

Extraction is a winemaking process, usually applied to black grapes or when making skin-contact white wines (aka “amber” or “orange” wines). The process is pretty much what it sounds like. The winemaker is trying to extract color and flavor from the grape skin. Think of extraction, which happens during maceration, like brewing tea. The longer the skins sit in contact with the juice, the more color and flavor gets pulled out. And the more color and flavor that come out of the skin, the fuller bodied the wine will be.

Winemaking choices also add to the final body weight of a wine. Malolactic conversion, during which malic acid (think green apples) converts to lactic acid (think milk) happens in almost all red wines and sometimes in white wines. Malic acid is thin, bright, even sharp (like those green apples) so if a winemaker wants a lighter-bodied wine he/she will stop malolactic conversion from happening. But, if the goal is a richer, heavier wine, then the process can add weight to the end wine. Ageing wine in oak vessels also helps soften the edges on wine and adds to their weight.

Wine language may often seem ridiculous. Sometimes people use descriptions that are difficult to relate to. Wet stone? Cut garden hose? Tar? Mineral? When did you last taste those things? I, myself have used some of the descriptions before. In many cases, wine people are not trying to be pretentious. However, trying to capture the often-ephemeral flavors and feelings of wine lead us down some pretty odd linguistic paths. So, if the above description of body in wine didn’t do it for you, try this experiment.

Pour yourself a few glasses of milk. Seriously. One glass of low-fat milk, one full-fat, and one glass of heavy cream. Look at the way they are in the glass. The low-fat milk might as well be water, but the cream coats the glass and clings to the inside. Then taste them. The low-fat milk has some flavor, but it isn’t very intense. The full-fat milk has more flavor and texture. But the cream has the most flavor and texture or all of them.

Think about wine body like that with light-bodied wines being the low-fat milk and so on.

Turkish Grapes and Body

Okay, so now we know what body in wine is. How do we know where the various Turkish grapes fall in this light, medium, full-bodied spectrum? There is one aspect of body that we have not discussed yet and that is the grape variety itself. By their nature, some grapes will simply produce a lighter or fuller-bodied wine regardless of how much extraction or what winemaking processes are used.

The black wine grapes in Turkey cover the full spectrum from full-bodied and ferociously tannic to chillable and quaffable light-bodied wines.

  • Acıkara | 10/10
  • Boğazkere | 10/10
  • Karalahana | 9/10
  • Adakarası  | 8/10
  • Öküzgözü  | 8/10
  • Barburi | 7/10
  • Kalecik Karası | 7/10
  • Karasakız | 6/10
  • Papazkarası | 6/10
  • Patkara | 6/10
  • Fersun | 5/10
  • Karaoğlan | 5/10
  • Kösetevek | 5/10
  • Foça Karası | 4/10
  • Merzifon Karası | 4/10
  • Çal Karası | 4/10
  • Çakal Üzümü | 3/10

Remember that body is not something that only red wines have. White wines, while they may never feel as full as many red wines, have their own spectrum.

  • Kerküş | 5/5
  • Mazrona | 5/5
  • Çavuş | 4/5
  • Gök | 4/5
  • Hasandede | 3/5
  • Narince | 3/5
  • Sultaniye | 3/5
  • Kolorko | 2/5
  • Narınç | 2/5
  • Sıdalan | 2/5
  • Sungurlu | 2/5
  • Yapıncak | 2/5
  • Aküzüm | 1/5
  • Emir | 1/5
  • Fesleğen | 1/5
  • Vasilaki | 1/5

The next time you find a Turkish wine, hopefully you will have a better idea of what exactly to expect from what’s in the bottle! If you are curious about the grapes themselves, there are infographics for those too! Check them out on The Quicky Cork website!

Previous
Hasan Saltik