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What Is the Average Alcohol Content of Wine?
Wine can have anywhere between 5% and 23% ABV. The average alcohol content of wine is about 12%. This amount varies depending on the variety of wine, as well as the winemaker and their desired ABV. Some wines within the same family can even see differences in the alcohol content due to the location of the vineyard and winery.
If you happen to discover bottle shock in wine, you’ll note that the alcohol is more apparent. This is not due to increased ABV, just weakened flavors. On the opposite end, you may think that an oxidized wine has less alcohol. In fact, it just has a stronger flavor. Fermentation is the only time the alcohol content changes in wine.
Since there is such a wide range in alcohol content, it’s beneficial to take a closer look at the different varieties. In general, the heavier the wine, the greater the alcohol content. You can learn all about the differences in wine varietals by picking up some of the best wine books available. If you’re looking into buying a winery you’ll especially want to pick up those books.
Red Wine Alcohol Content
The alcohol content of red wine usually falls between 12% and 15%, with an average of 13.5% ABV. Red wines tend to have higher alcohol content than their white counterparts. Red wines are made of grapes that are usually harvested late in the season. These grapes have more sugar than the grapes used in white wines, so fermentation leads to a higher concentration of alcohol.
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The fermentation process also leads to a higher level of tannins in red wine which gives it a much stronger coloration. This beautiful color is why you may also need to learn how to remove red wine stains or find the best wine stain removers.
White Wine Alcohol Content
The alcohol content in white wine varies from 5% to 14% but comes in at an average of 10% ABV. The less ripe, white grapes used in fermentation have less sugar than darker grapes. This sugar converts to ethanol at a lower rate as well. This gives white wine its sweet taste but keeps it light and refreshing.
Since there’s less alcohol, it’s also easy to drink more white wine in one sitting. This can sometimes be more than intended. To avoid this, try only using a standard wine pour or pick up a set of wine glasses with pour lines.
Wine Cooler Alcohol Content
Wine coolers have a much lower alcohol content than most other wines, coming in at an average of 4-6% ABV. These drinks have a lower ABV because they are only partially wine. This wine is usually also mixed with fruit juice, a carbonated beverage, and sugar.
Wine coolers have been a popular party drink of choice since the 1980s due to their lower level of alcohol and sweet taste. In the United States, many “wine coolers” don’t even have wine in them. In their place, malt liquor is used to skirt excise taxes on wine while maintaining the alcohol levels.
Port Wine Alcohol Content
The Port wine is a heavy, dark, red wine with an alcohol content of 16% to 20%, with an average of 18% ABV. Port wine has more alcohol than other reds because it is a fortified wine. Fortification is when a wine has distilled grape spirits added during fermentation. This halts the fermentation process before all sugar is converted to alcohol making port sweeter than most reds as well. It also increases the alcohol content since the spirits added have a high ABV.
The rich flavors of port wine also benefit greatly from aeration and decanting. So pick up one of the best wine aerators or best wine decanters to get the most out of a vintage port.
Sweet Wine Alcohol Content
The sweetness of wine is inextricably linked to its alcohol content, and wine classified as sweet wine usually has less than 10% ABV. Sweet wine is a generic term covering many dessert wines, usually white wines. Some sweet wine can have as little as 5% ABV. Since there’s so much sugar, you might want to avoid dessert wines if you care about the number of calories in a bottle of wine.
Rose Wine Alcohol Content
Rose wine (or rosé) falls on the color spectrum in between a red and white and has an average alcohol content of 12% ABV. Rosé wines are fermented with the grape juice that has contact with the grape skins for a short period. This adds some coloration to the wine but keeps it from being a true red wine.
Since rosé is a wine that is in the middle of the others, it can vary in hue, alcohol content, and taste. Many people think of rosé wines as pink, but they can be anywhere from purple to orange. Rosé wines can also run the gamut from sweet to dry. Some common rosé wines are white zinfandel, Provencal rosé, and Blush Chablis.
Sparkling Wine Alcohol Content
|Italian Asti||Very Low; under 12.5 percent|
|Italian Prosecco||Very Low; under 12.5 percent|
|California Sparkling Wine||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
|French Champagne||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
|Spanish Cava||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
Rosé Alcohol Content
|California White Zinfandel||Very Low; under 12.5 percent|
|Portuguese Rosés||Very Low; under 12.5 percent|
|French Rosés||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
|Spanish Rosés||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
White Wine Alcohol Content
|French Vouvray and Muscadet||Very Low; under 12.5 percent|
|German Riesling||Very Low; under 12.5 percent|
|Portuguese Vinho Verde||Very Low; under 12.5 percent|
|Spanish Txakoli||Very Low; under 12.5 percent|
|Austrian Grüner Veltliner||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
|Australian Riesling||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
|French Alsace White||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
|French Loire and Bordeaux Whites||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
|French White Burgundy||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
|Italian Pinot Grigio||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
|New York Riesling||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
|New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
|Oregon Pinot Gris||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
|South African Sauvignon Blanc||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
|Spanish Albarino||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
|Australian Chardonnay||High; 13.5 to 14.5 percent|
|California Chardonnay||High; 13.5 to 14.5 percent|
|California Pinot Gris||High; 13.5 to 14.5 percent|
|California Sauvignon Blanc||High; 13.5 to 14.5 percent|
|California Viognier||High; 13.5 to 14.5 percent|
|Chilean Chardonnay||High; 13.5 to 14.5 percent|
|French Sauternes||High; 13.5 to 14.5 percent|
|South African Chenin Blanc||High; 13.5 to 14.5 percent|
|French Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise (fortified)||Very High; more than 14.5 percent|
|Portuguese Madeira (fortified)||Very High; more than 14.5 percent|
|Spanish Sherry (fortified)||Very High; more than 14.5 percent|
Red Wine Alcohol Content
|French Beaujolais and Burgundy||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
|French Bordeaux||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
|Italian Chianti||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
|Spanish Rioja||Moderately Low; 12.5 to 13.5 percent|
|Argentine Malbec||High; 13.5 to 14.5 percent|
|Australian Shiraz||High; 13.5 to 14.5 percent|
|California Cabernet Sauvignon||High; 13.5 to 14.5 percent|
|California Pinot Noir||High; 13.5 to 14.5 percent|
|California Syrah||High; 13.5 to 14.5 percent|
|Chilean Merlot||High; 13.5 to 14.5 percent|
|French Rhône Red||High; 13.5 to 14.5 percent|
|Italian Barolo||High (13.5 to 14.5 Percent)|
|California Petite Sirah||Very High; more than 14.5 percent|
|California Zinfandel||Very High; more than 14.5 percent|
|Italian Amarone||Very High; more than 14.5 percent|
|Portuguese Port (fortified)||Very High; more than 14.5 percent|