Science is Cool.
This past weekend, we found ourselves at the Montshire Museum of Science in VT, just across the border from Dartmouth College. One of the exhibits was around viscosity; a visual representation of viscosity. My brain goes straight to wine, of course.
One of the better analogies I've heard used in relation to the body or viscosity of wine is the comparison to milk. Is it like skim milk, light body; whole milk, medium body; or heavy cream, rich and full bodied.
It occurred to me that while these are wonderful for describing body, it does nothing for how one looks at the wine and visually inspects the wine. The exhibit helped to demonstrate different viscosities by showing the different rates by which air bubbles flow through liquids of varying viscosity: water (think skim milk), gear oil (whole milk), and corn syrup (heavy cream).
Why does any of this matter for wine anyway? Body can indicate the amount of alcohol in the wine. It can be seen by watching wine bead on the side of a glass, and then watching the legs and how long it takes them to rejoin the wine in the glass (think of the rate at which the bubbles flowed). The higher the alcohol content the more body or viscosity a wine will exhibit. These are then described as full-bodied, thick, rich wines. The lighter the body, the lower the alcohol.
Beyond the alcohol content, this information can be used to help a taster identify from where a wine comes. Fuller bodied wines usually come from grapes that are grown in very warm climates. Lighter bodied wines are more likely to have originated from a place such as Burgundy, Germany, Austria or say, the Czech Republic.
Science is not only cool, it shows us new ways to experience and understand wine. So learn and enjoy!