What’s the Average Alcohol Content in Wine?
Today, class, we are going to discuss the alcohol content in wine. Why? Because, not to sound like an influencer explaining her skincare routine, a lot of you guys have asked us questions, and well, we have to give the people what they want, right?
Let’s start with the basics. The degree of alcohol in any given glass of wine is equivalent to its percentage by volume. This unit is often referred to as ABV, which stands for alcohol by the volume. The alcohol content of wine is directly related to the amount of sugar developed in grapes during harvest time. Alcohol in wine is created by fermentation. During the wine fermentation process, yeast is added, which makes a chemical reaction and, therefore, converts the grape juice sugars into ethanol and carbon dioxide, creating alcohol. Because sugar is a big deal when creating alcohol, grapes with lower sugar levels have less alcohol. In contrast, the more sugary the wine, the higher the potential alcohol.
Now, we’re sure you’re wondering why different grapes have different sugar levels. It’s a valid question. Many various factors affect a wine’s sugar level. For example, some wine grapes are naturally higher in sugar than others. Like how some people have higher metabolisms, it’s not fair, but they can’t help it either. Other factors that affect wine’s grape content include when the grapes are harvested. The riper a grape gets, the higher its sugar level will be!
Wine regions also play a factor in grape’s sugar levels. Wine regions with cooler climates produce types of wines with lower sugar levels and, therefore, lower alcohol content. Conversely, wine regions with warmer clients produce higher sugar levels and higher alcohol wines. This explains why an American Riesling has a higher alcohol content than one made in Alsace, France. Alas, because we humans are brilliant, we have found ways to alter the amount of alcohol in a bottle of wine chemically. Decreasing the amount of alcohol in wine is a process known as “reverse osmosis.” Essentially, it involves machinery that separates the water and alcohol from wine and pumps it out. Winemaking via this method is extremely low in alcohol and occasionally even alcohol-free. Pro tip: if you’re trying to reduce your alcohol intake or simply watch it more closely and prefer a more natural method, opt for wines produced in places with a cooler climate, such as New Zealand, Germany, and Northern France.
But we digress, back to the alcohol content in wine. The average glass of wine sits at around 11% to 13% alcohol. On the other hand, bottles range from as little as 5.5% ABV to as much as 20% ABV. If you’re not sure what the ABV is in the wine you are drinking, here is one way you can tell. Typically, a wine with a higher ABV will taste like heat in the back of your mouth or throat; it will taste warmer and bolder!
According to other alcohol experts other than ourselves, the alcohol content in wine has really grown in the last few years. Winemakers have been leaving grapes on the vines far after they would have traditionally been picked and therefore, creating fuller-bodied wines with much more alcohol. Again thanks to science and our big human brains, harvesting grapes later is not very risky.
We also feel obligated to point out that less alcohol does not mean less fun. With so many different countries and regions producing wine, there are plenty of delicious wines out there that will not leave your head spinning after one glass.
Wines With a Low Alcohol Content
As we discussed, wines with naturally low alcohol content are produced in countries such as New Zealand, Germany, Northern France, or Oregon, USA. To be considered a wine with low alcohol content, wines are typically under 12.5% ABV. These include sparkling wines such as Italian Asti and Italian Prosecco. White wines include French Vouvray, German Riesling, Portuguese Vinho Verde, Spanish Txacolina. Looking for a rose with a low ABV? Opt for a California White Zinfandel or a Portuguese rose.
You might be wondering why we didn’t include any red wines in this list. While there are exceptions, red wines usually have more alcohol by volume than white wines. Remember what we explained earlier about sugar being a big deal in the amount of alcohol? Well, when it comes to red wine, grapes are typically harvested later, and therefore, they are much riper and full of more sugar. The riper the grapes, the higher the sugar content three is for the yeast to convert into alcohol during fermentation!
Wines With a Medium Alcohol Content
Wines with a medium alcohol content typically sit around 12.5% to 13.5%. These include sparkling wines, such as Champagne, Spanish Cava, and California sparkling wine. White wines include New York Riesling, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Australian Riesling, French Alscare white, and the French Loire. Are you craving a rose? French and Spanish roses sit in this medium alcohol content. Lastly, red wine does fit into the medium alcohol content! These include Spanish Rioja, French Bordeaux, Italian Cianti, and French Beaujolais.
Wines With a High Alcohol Content
Finally, the wines with the highest alcohol levels. These wines are typically 13.5% to 14.5%. Here is a breakdown by different types, from Australia to California:
Are you feeling a high alcohol white wine? Here are a few to choose from: California and Australian Chardonnay, California Sauvignon Blan, Viognier, Pinot Gris, French Sauternes, and South African Chenin Blanc.
Opting for a red? Choose from Argentine Malbec, Australian Shiraz, Italian Barolo, California Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah.
Now, these are just the wines that have high alcohol content. If you’re looking for a wine that has a very high alcohol content, here are a few that are more than 14.5%.
White wines include fortified French Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, Portuguese Madeira, and Spanish sherry.
As for reds, these include California Sirah and Zinfandel, Italian Amarone, and fortified Portuguese port.
How Much Wine Is a Serving Size?
According to the 2020 Dietary Guideline for Americans, thanks to the United States Department of Health and Human services, they lay out that one serving of wine is five ounces. Fun fact, if you don’t drink wine (excuse us, but why are you reading this on a canned wine site?), this guideline also applies to other drinks. The guidelines clearly state that one drink is equivalent to one and a half ounces of liquor at 80 proof or 40 percent alcohol or 12 ounces of beer at five percent alcohol.