Every time you guzzle down that glass of Chardonnay, or the tasty Cabernet Sauvignon, somewhere in your mind, you must be thinking, is it healthy? Anyway, whether your choice is red, white or sparkling, they all contain some alcohol level. But how much alcohol is in a glass of wine? Then you shrug it off and proceed with your pints.
But on a rather serious note, it’s prudent to understand the highs and lows of the alcohol content you are taking. For starters, the alcohol levels will vary from one wine to the other. And the product recipes and set of processes used in the winemaking determine the alcohol level. Are you excited to learn which wines have higher or lower alcohol? We will also share how alcohol can affect the taste of wine. It gets even better as we reveal the perfect food pairing.
How Is Alcohol Content in Wine created?
What differentiates wine and grape juice is the harvesting and fermentation stages of winemaking. It is essential to learn how this works; through a process known as veraison, ripe grapes produce sugar. The yeast transforms sugar into ethanol (Alcohol), heat, and carbon dioxide during fermentation. It’s a process that can naturally stop when the sugar is out or the winemaker interposes. How? Through chaptalization (adding more sugar) or fortifying the wine by adding distilled spirit. In essence, the riper the grapes, the higher the sugar level and alcohol in the wine.
Other contributing factors to the amount of sugar and alcohol in a bottle of wine are the climate of the grape’s origin and the variety of grapes used. Most colder climate regions like France, Germany, Mosel, Willamette Vallet, and Oregon will have a shorter growing season. And that’s the same for the chillier summer seasons where the vineyards don’t receive enough sunshine. Up to there, you can now understand why hot regions like California, Sonoma, Chile, and Australia are the world’s wine producers.
How is Alcohol in Wine Measured
What does alcohol by volume mean (ABV)? You might have come across this if you love to imbibe. It is a standard measurement of ethanol in a drink, usually indicated by a percentage. It is also the milliliters of alcohol present in every 100ml of beverage.
How Alcohol Content Varies in Wine
Now, this is where we get to know which wines have higher alcohol content. These are fortified wines, which include Madeira, Sherry, and Port. The ABV may range from a low of 3 percent to a high of 22 percent. They can be deceiving with their sweet taste, resulting from additional sugar or spirit.
So, as we saw earlier, the vineyard region’s climate can impact the wine ABV. Vines exposed to plenty of sunshine ripens the grapes faster and produces lovely and juicier wine. However, the alcohol by volume of those wines is high.
Alcohol Levels of Wine – Lowest to Highest
If you go for wine-tasting, you are likely to experience four alcohol levels: low, moderately low, high, very high. The high to very-high level wines have over 14.5 % ABV and will have a bolder and oilier taste. And those moderately low will feel lighter, as their ABV is under 12.5%.
All these are our general assessments of the alcohol content we found in different types of wine. And as local climates where the grapes grow impacts the alcohol level, we have included them too. However, if you want to see the actual wine alcohol percentage you are drinking, always read the wine label.
Low-Alcohol Wines: Under 12.5% ABV
Here we got some alternatives for you if you are planning to cut down on alcohol. It also depends on how low you can take that road. Some of the lightweight Vinos are sparkling and versatile to enjoy all year-round.
• Sparkling: Italian Asti and Italian Prosecco.
• White: Chilled French Vouvray, and Muscadet. Riesling from German and Portuguese Vinho Verde.
• Rosé: You will love the California White Zinfandel and Portuguese rosés.
Moderate-Alcohol Wines: 12.5%-13.5% ABV
Before you pick that bottle of Chardonnay, first check how much alcohol is in the wine by looking at the ABV. Most of them will fall within a moderate alcohol category of 12.5 to 13.5 percent.
Best options to consider include:
• Sparkling: The best of California sparkling wine and French Champagne.
• White: Grüner Veltliner and Riesling from Australia. French Alsace and Loire and white Bordeaux. White Burgundy and Italian Pinot Grigio. New York Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, and many more.
• Rosé: French and Spanish rosés.
• Red: Burgundy and French Bordeaux. Italian Chianti and Spanish Rioja.
High-Alcohol Wines (13.5 to 14.5 Percent)
Some of the best picks for high alcohol booze lovers include:
• White: Some of the best California whites include Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier. Chilean Chardonnay, SA Chenin Blanc, and French Sauternes.
• Red: California Cabernet Sauvignon, French Rhône red, Italian Barolo, California Pinot Noir, California Syrah, Chilean Merlot, Argentine Malbec, Australian Shiraz.
Very High-Alcohol Wines: 14.5% ABV or Higher
If you are in a vibrant mood and want to get wasted, here are your best picks. These fortified wines with a boost of distilled spirit are the booziest bunch you can find:
• White: Portuguese Madeira – fortified, Spanish sherry – fortified, French Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise -fortified.
• Red: The best of California’s reds includes Petit Sirah and Zinfandel. Italian Amarone, and Portuguese port – fortified.
Food Pairings as per Alcohol Content of Wine
Having understood the intricacies of both white and red wine alcohol content, we’ll now have a more in-depth view of how you can serve them along with your favorite dish.
The following are some classic pairings that may enhance your dining experience.
Low-Alcohol Wine Pairings: Light-bodied options that are excellent with seafood and soft cheeses like Brie, feta, and mascarpone. Also, appetizers such as charcuterie and crudités.
Medium-Alcohol Wine Pairings: This selection offers the most varieties in wine. So, there’s no one-wine-fits-all approach. Pair light red wines like French Rhône red with pasta and salmon dishes. Match off poultry, shellfish, and pork chops with full-bodied wines – medium white wine alcohol content like Chardonnay.
High-Alcohol Wine Pairings: Rich wines are ideal for meaty meals, especially those that are savory and slightly have a sweet sauce, such as barbecued short ribs. Fortified wines make fantastic dessert wines, such as Moscato d’Asti. Pair them with desserts such as chocolate cake or creme brulee to come alive. Also great on their own.
Ready to Raise the Glass!
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes on in winemaking. Grapevine climate and fermentation process determines the quantity of booze in a bottle of wine. Alcohol levels have a significant impact on the texture and effect of wine. And you can enjoy a bottle of wine regardless of the ABV.
Try to remember that; higher-alcohol wines have more intense flavors, while low-alcohol wines tend to be more balanced. They are more versatile and pair perfectly with most food. So, which type of wine delights you? Now you are ready to discover the highs and lows of your favorite drink. Right?
In conclusion, the best way to raise your glass is to enjoy it with a great meal; the wine that you’re drinking should be making you merry, as well as suit your mood. Have it responsibly.