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Alcohol in Wine

Published on June 24, 2011

We all know that all wine has alcohol in it... otherwise it's just grape juice! The alcohol in wine is of vital importance to experiencing the texture, smell, and taste of the wine. Wine's alcohol content varies from wine to wine, from grape to grape, and from winemaker to winemaker.

In making of spirits, either grains or grapes are used to make what is called a "neutral spirit". After distillation the alcohol that comes out of the still is anywhere from 180 to 190 proof. No human can handle that massive of amount of alcohol so governments require that the proof of spirits be reduced by adding water to them to reduce the the alcohol content to 20% to 80%.

Adding water to wine was also common practice 5,000 years ago, but it was not to reduce the alcohol content. Wine, after fermentation, is very low in alcohol percentage as it is!

Why are wines different in alcohol content?

During the past several years winemakers have been leaving grapes on the vines well after they would typically be picked. That translates into fuller-bodied wines and more alcohol. Thanks to scientific advances in farming, it's now less risky to postpone that harvest. Warmer climates also play a huge role so wines from California and parts of Australia are likely to have more alcohol than, for example, wines from Germany or Canada.

Here is a list of many wines on the market according to their alcohol content, including fortified wine (wines that have alcohol added to them).

Moderately-Low Alcohol Wines: 12.5% - 13.5%

Rose wine: French roses, Spanish roses

Sparkling wine: French Champagne, California sparkling wine, Spanish Cava

White wine: Spanish Albarino, French white burgundy, New York Riesling, South African Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Austrian Gruner veltliner, Australian Riesling, Italian Pinot Grigio, Oregon Pinot Gris, French Alsace white, French Loire and Bordeaux white

Red wine: Italian Chianti, French Bordeaux, French Beaujolais and burgundy, Spanish Rioja

High Alcohol Wines: 13.5% - 14.5%

White wine: South African Chenin Blanc, Chilean Chardonnay, California Viognier, French Sauternes, California chardonnay, Australian Chardonnay, California Pinot Gris, California Sauvignon Blanc

Red wine: Australian Shiraz, Argentine Malbec, California Cabernet Sauvignon, French Rhone red, California Syrah, California Pinot Noir, Italian Barolo, Chilean Merlot

Very-High Alcohol Wines: Above 14.5%

White wine: Spanish sherry (fortified), French Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise (fortified), Portuguese Madeira (fortified)

Red wine: Portuguese port (fortified), California Zinfandel, California Petite Syrah, California Granache, Italian Amarone

All alcohol is harmful to the human body regardless of the amount so please consume responsibly. Remember all great wine is best enjoyed with great company! Happy sipping!

Craig Brazeal
The Rock & Roll Wine Commando

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Example: 1991 Silver Oak

Top 10 Varietals for March, 2020

Pinot Noir is the most popular wine varietal chosen by our visitors this month.

This varies by season so if you're looking for something tasty to drink this spring, Pinot Noir is a great choice. The others are shown below:

1. Pinot Noir
2. Red Bordeaux Blend
3. Syrah
4. Nebbiolo
5. Cabernet Sauvignon
6. Merlot
7. Chardonnay
8. Red Blend
9. Sangiovese
10. Riesling

Top 10 Producers for March, 2020

Wines from Sapphire Hill were selected by our visitors the most this month, making them the most popular choice for consumers.

If you're looking for a wine suggestion, Sapphire Hill might be a great place to start. The others are shown below.

1. Sapphire Hill
2. Phelan Vineyard
3. Stephen Test
4. Ferdinand Pieroth
5. Adelsheim
6. Silver Oak
7. Louis Jadot
8. Viansa
9. Andrew Will
10. Bruno Giacosa