Your Ultimate Guide to How Much Alcohol Is in Every Type of Wine

Knowing the alcohol content of the wine you're drinking is highly valuable.

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The degree of alcohol in any given glass of wine is equivalent to its percentage by volume and is often referred to as "ABV" (or alcohol by volume). Alcohol levels in wine are directly correlated with the amount of sugar that developed in the grapes at harvest time: The higher the sugar levels, the higher the potential alcohol. This doesn't mean that higher-alcohol wines are sweeter, though sometimes this is the case. Rather, yeast consumes the sugar and converts it into alcohol during fermentation. The style (or varietal) of wine, the climate where the grapes were grown, and the winemaking/fermentation process are all key factors in determining both the sugar content of the grapes and the amount of alcohol in your bottle.

The average glass of wine contains about 11 percent to 13 percent alcohol, but bottles range from as little as 5.5 percent alcohol by volume to as much as around 20 percent ABV. When tasting wine, you'll notice alcohol comes through as heat in the back of your mouth or throat. A higher ABV wine will taste warmer and bolder, almost like a slight burning sensation on your palate.

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It May Be Higher Than You Think

According to experts, the alcohol content of wine has spiked considerably in recent years. "There's pressure on winemakers from critics for intense flavors, and that means riper grapes," explains Marnie Old, former director of wine studies at the French Culinary Institute in New York City and co-author of He Said Beer, She Said Wine. "So during the past few years, winemakers have been leaving grapes on the vines well after they would typically be picked, and that translates into fuller-bodied wines and more alcohol." Thanks to scientific advances in farming, it's now less risky to postpone a harvest. Warmer climates also play a role, so a riesling from California is going to be much more potent than a traditional one from a cooler climate, like Germany.

Knowing how much alcohol you're imbibing is useful information. Here's a guide to wines with very low, moderately low, high, and very high alcohol content. Cheers to whatever style suits you!

wine glasses seen from under the bar
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Sparkling Wine Alcohol Content

Wine ABV
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

Wine ABV
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

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White Wine Alcohol Content

Wine ABV
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

Wine ABV
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
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