It’s a fact we all know: One glass of wine per day is good for your health. You might wonder how much alcohol is contained in a glass of wine. American guidelines set the standard serving of wine as 5 ounces, which has about 12% alcohol. But since there are so many different types of wine, not all glasses are created equal.
Your single glass of wine will be smaller if it has a higher alcohol content (ABV). A smaller serving would be made if the alcohol content is low.
We’re going to give you an overview of the alcohol content of wine and how it is determined during winemaking. We’ll also talk a bit about how the amount of alcohol can affect the taste of wine along with some delicious ideas for food pairings based on alcohol levels.
What is the Difference? Wines with high alcohol content Determined?
The amount of sugar in grapes determines the wine’s alcohol content. The greater the potential for alcohol fermentation, the more sugar is present.
As we discussed in our guide to winemaking, fermentation breaks down the sugar in grapes and converts it to alcohol. This process stops naturally when all the sugar is gone or when the winemaker interrupts it — sometimes this is done by adding more sugar (known as chaptalization) or by fortifying it with a distilled spirit to create fortified wine.
The type of wine, grape variety, and climate are all important factors in determining how much sugar or alcohol is in a bottle.
Cooler climates, for example, have a shorter growing period and cool summers that don’t expose the vines to excessive sunlight. Champagne, France, Mosel, Germany, and Willamette Valley in Oregon are all examples of cool climate regions.
Warmer climates, on the other hand, have more sunlight which results in more sugar and faster ripening. This can often lead to a higher ABV. Sonoma, California, Colchagua Valley in Chile, and Murray Valley, Australia are all warm climate regions.
Limits on AlcoholFrom the Lowest to the Highest Quality Wine
Depending on the person you ask, wine’s alcohol content can be divided into different categories with different ABV thresholds. Some people will tell you that there are more than four categories, ranging from low to medium-low, medium-high, high, and very high.
That’s because it’s simply finicky. We have instead taken a more general approach to these imaginary limits in order to keep them practical and understandable. We don’t like being fussy, just like you. This is not our style.
There are always exceptions to the rule, as with all things in life. These numbers are general estimates of alcohol content for different wines. To confirm the amount of alcohol in your wine, make sure you check the ABV percentage label. Because alcohol levels are affected by local climate, we also included wine-growing regions.
Low-Alcohol Wines: Under 12.5%ABV
What is the limit? These lightweight vinos can be a great option if you are trying to reduce your alcohol consumption. This wine aerator are light and sparkling and can be enjoyed year-round for any occasion.
- French Gamay
- French Muscadet
- German Riesling
- Italian Asti
- Italian Brachetto d’Acqui
- Italian Prosecco
- Portuguese Rose
- Spanish Txakoli
Moderate-Alcohol Wines: 12.5%-14%ABV
The next time you’re shopping for your new favorite wines, take a look at the ABV on the bottle. Most wines fall under the moderate-alcohol category, which is 12.5%-14.8%. These are the top choices:
- Chardonnay from Australia
- Austrian Gruner Veltliner
- Australian Riesling
- California Chardonnay
- Pinot Noir from California
- California Rose (hello, Usual Wines!)
- French Alsace
- French Beaujolais
- French Bordeaux
- French Burgundy
- French Malbec
- French Merlot
- Pinot Noir from France
- French White Burgundy
- Pinot Noir from Germany
- Italian Barolo
- Italian Chianti
- Italian Pinot Grigio
- Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand
- Sauvignon Blanc South Africa
- Spanish Rioja
High-Alcohol Wines: 14.5%ABVOr Higher
These wines have the highest alcohol content and are among the most alcoholic. These wines are often from warmer climates like Australia, California, Chile and Chile where there is plenty of sugar-making sunlight. A good number of these are fortified wines that are enhanced with a distilled spirit.
- Australian Cabernet Sauvignon
- Shiraz from Australia
- California Cabernet Sauvignon
- California Syrah
- California Zinfandel
- Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon
- Fortified wines (Sicilian Marsala and Spanish Sherry, Portuguese Madeira, and French Muscat)
- Merlot from Australia or Chile, California or Chile
- Food pairings based on theWines with high alcohol content
Every person has a different perception of the taste and smell of alcohol. Some might find it bitter and astringent, while others find it refreshing and refreshing. Wines with high alcohol tend to be bolder tasting and leave a richer taste on the palate. However, lower-alcohol wines are crisper and have a lighter mouthfeel. (FYI, feel free to check out our guide on wine terms for more fancy-pants ways to describe wine.)
Now that you are more familiar with the differences between wines and alcohol levels, let us get to the point of how to pair them with your favorite foods. Have fun, and don’t be afraid of trying new things. Use these handy tips for your next wine-tasting party.
Wine pairings with low-alcohol wines These lighter options go well with seafood, appetizers like charcuterie or crudites, as well as soft cheeses like Brie, Feta, and Mascarpone.
Pairings of Medium-Alcohol WinesThis category has the largest selection of wine types. There are no one-wine fits all approach. Pinot Noir, a lighter-bodied wine, is paired with salmon, pasta dishes, and pork chops. Pair poultry, pork, and shellfish to full-bodied white wines such as Chardonnay. This compilation contains wine and cheese pairings for more ideas, click here
High-Alcohol Wine Pairings: Rich wines work well with meaty dishes, particularly those that have rich sauces like barbecued short ribs. For dessert, fortified wines are great wines to pair with chocolate cake or crème Brulee. They can also be enjoyed on their own.
It’s time to raise a glass
A lot goes into making wine. It takes care of everything, from climate to fermentation. While alcohol levels can have an effect on wine’s taste, texture and effects, they do not determine its quality. A great bottle of wine doesn’t matter what ABV is.
Remember that wines with higher alcohol levels are more full-bodied and have more intense flavors. Wines with lower alcohol levels are more balanced and can be used to pair well with other foods. It comes down to personal preference when it comes to wine’s alcohol content. Whether it’s red, white, or rose, as long as you enjoy your bottle of wine — and drink it responsibly — you’ll have a good time discovering its highs and lows.