What You SHOULD Know About Alcohol...

Posted by The Wine Whore |

Like many people, when I first started drinking wine, I didn't think much about the alcohol content of what I drank. Sure it was listed on the side of every bottle... I may have even taken a second to see how high it was, but I never realized some of the dynamics that go into this number. Well, there's more to that percentage than meets the eye...

Aside from that sweet buzz we all know and love, alcohol in wine can actually affect more than your inhibitions. In fact, it affects profitability!

How so?

Check out this post by Tom Johnson over at Louisville Juice. Apparently, higher alcohol content in wine allow wineries to turn-over bottles much quicker than those with lower alcohol contents that require more aging.

Do people actually LIKE higher alcohol content in their wine?

The answer is YES!

Not only are such higher alcohol wines able to be sold quicker, but scoring panels such as Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast tend to rate them higher too! Wineries either conform to this high alcohol peer-pressure or choose to take another direction.

One such winery that chooses NOT to conform is Harvest Moon. They openly admit that they even quit submitting to these types of corporate tasting panels because their wines are lower in alcohol, higher in natural acid and low in oak flavor. The exact opposite needed to garner high scores.

All of this B.S. makes me feel like someone is trying to make me out to be a cheap date. I may be a wine whore but that doesn't mean that I'm looking for someone to get me drunk and take advantage of me!

The next time you choose a bottle of wine because of a high score, or decide to take home that "value wine" with a high alcohol content, take a second to think about what you are reinforcing.

Do YOU actually LIKE wine with high alcohol?

Let your palate make the final call!

(This message brought to you by The Wine Whore)

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Danielle Boonstra said...

I have been noticing lately that wines (especially Old Vine stuff from California) is higher in alcohol content. I don't mind it on the palate, but I don't like getting knocked on my butt by a bottle either. Thanks for this post :)

CChamberlain said...


I totally get what you're saying! However, I think this is an unfair statement in the way that there are quality wines out there that are high in alcohol but incredibly balanced and therefore incredibly enjoyable (though dangerous when you think you're sipping on a normal glass of wine!)

Californian winemaker McPrice Myers creates excellent expressions of high-alcohol wines through both his own label and in collaboration through Barrel 27 wines. I'm not sure of their distribution outside of NY, but I assure you, they're worth a try!

The Wine Whore said...

Hello Danielle!

You're absolutely right, if you like the taste, these wines are great, but they can really rock you if you aren't careful! I just always find it interesting to see how winemakers alter (or choose not to alter) the components of their wine to fit the mold or sell more product.

CChamberlain, I was hoping someone would bring up that point! You are right, I really should clarify which wines this post is referring to. There are definitely a lot of wines that ARE high in alcohol AND well balanced. This post is targeting those that are not made so well and just made to quickly turn around product or fit the palate of wine reviewers.

I'll check into the McPrice Myers... it would be cool to taste their wines and compare 'em to the "other" high alcohol bottles! :)

MVineyards said...

I despise high alcohol wines. Starts with high BRIX (sugar volume) from overripe fruit. Sure those who can get that ripeness probably just say everyone else is jealous, but like fine art subtlety is more interesting.

The Wine Whore said...

I always enjoy your insight MVineyards!

I think that a lot of people get into high alcohol, blow your face off wines when they haven't built up their palate to more sophisticated, subtle, and often more beautiful wines!

I'm glad I'm not alone on this!

Joe said...

If they're made well, that's fine. Zinfandels, by nature of their uneven ripenin, tend to be high alcohol. Amarone is usually high alcohol. Aussie Shiraz and Cab can pack a wallop (whallop?). But, if the alcohol is in balance with the fruit, the acid, the tannin, etc., then it's fine.

Being as much of a food guy as a wine guy, though, lower alcohol/higher acid are generally much more food-friendly

MVineyards said...

As Liverpool FC says "You'll Never Walk Alone"!!

Richard Auffrey said...

People also cannot treat all wine the same, due to differing alcohol contents. It may not seem much of a difference between 12% and 15%, but it really is significant. Drinking 3 glasses of 15% alcohol will get you drunker than 3 glasses of 12%. Thus, you should drink less of higher alcohol wines, unless you want to be drunker than usual.

Plus it is good to eat food with higher alcohol content wines, to help soak up that alcohol.

And as mentioned earlier, balance is a very important factor.

The Wine Whore said...

That's a great point Joe! Balance is key but low alcohol can be much more food friendly... For me it depends on my mood... sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes well, you don't! :)

In any case, I am glad I'm not alone on this one! Thank you MVineyards! :)

Kevin Glowacki said...

So long as there is balance, I don't mind the higher alcohol. I especially like the richness it adds to the mouth feel, almost syrupy as some would say.

It is like movies, sometimes I'm in the mood for Lost in Translation, other times I just want to watch Transformers. If I need something in between, I've always got The Matrix.

The Wine Whore said...

That's a great analogy! Anything comparing music, and/or movies to wine is pretty cool in my book!

What would you say is the Wedding Singer of wine?

in vino veritas said...

I agree. I am generally not a fan of big alcohol wines. But somehow the Molly Dooker wines and some of the other Australian wines that are around 16% are still highly rated. When Renae Hirsch from Henry's Drive Winery in Australia asked the dinner guests about alcohol content, most said it was getting too high. Also, there is a 1.5% leeway between what the label says and actual alcohol content. In some countries, they round to the nearest half-percent or whole percent.

Great movie in that picture, but I don't think Bluto was drinking wine : )

The Wine Whore said...

LOL! I can only imagine what the movie would have been like if he was drinking wine! :P

You're totally right about not only the label's info not being exact but also about how some wines can still taste good despite the high alcohol content.

I'm just afraid that wineries will start churning out high alcohol crap in order to make a profit... do you see a lot of that?

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