Full-Bodied Red Wine Style Guide

Last updated: 9/2023

Applies to: winemakers making full-bodied red wines in a variety of styles. This article contains a pdf download with complete process and product recommendations.

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Winemakers can drive wine style based on key processing decisions and correct product choice. We created these Scott Labs wine style guides to provide both process and product recommendations for helping winemakers achieve their stylistic goals.


Full-Bodied Red Wines

Learn how we think about "Full-Bodied Reds" to determine if this style guide is right for you:


Full-bodied red wines are generally characterized by concentrated flavor, dominant tannin and structure, and alcohol content of 14.5% or higher. They are generally made from phenolically ripe fruit with small berries.


  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Syrah
  • Mouvèdre
  • Malbec
  • Petite Sirah
  • Some styles of Merlot
  • Tempranillo
  • Touriga Nacional
  • Tannat
  • Zinfandel


Fermenting very ripe (potentially over-ripe) grapes

  • High sugar: high sugars lead to high potential alcohols which stress yeast and can cause stuck fermentations or create “hot” wines. Yeast should always be chosen for a suitable potential alcohol tolerance.
  • High pH: significant acid additions may be needed. High pH also lowers the effectiveness of SO2 and can promote the growth of spoilage organisms prior to fermentation or while cold soaking.
  • Risk of off-odor production: High alcohol fermentations with active spoilage organism populations can create stressful conditions for yeast and may result in the production of volatile sulfur off-odors. Therefore, no to low H2S production strains should be considered

Creating structure without over extracting

These grapes are often full of tannin and structure-building phenolics. They should be appropriately extracted such that the wine’s varietal character is not overshadowed.

Managing malolactic fermentation

High alcohol wines can stress malolactic bacteria leading to stuck malolactic fermentations. Additionally, in high alcohol wines with residual sugar, after malic and citric acids have been depleted, malolactic bacteria can consume sugar and cause elevated acetic acid (VA). In high pH situations, this occurs more quickly.

Protecting against microbial concerns while barrel aging

Full-bodied red wines tend toward the higher end of the wine pH scale, lowering the effectiveness of SO2 against spoilage organisms. This is especially important as these wines are often barrel aged for long periods of time.

More Wine Style Guides

Aromatic Whites

Chardonnay and similar white wines

Rhône Whites

Sauvignon blanc and similar white wines

Rosé Wines

Light-Bodied Red Wines

Medium-Bodied Red Wines