Whatever way you slice it, knowing the alcohol content in 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's developed in the grapes at harvest time: the higher the sugar levels, the higher the potential alcohol. This doesn't mean 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 gown, 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 around 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 a wine, you'll notice alcohol comes through as heat in your back of your mouth or throat. A higher ABV wine will taste warmer and bolder; almost like a slight burning sensation on your palate.

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, the former director of wine studies at the French Culinary Institute, in New York City, and a coauthor 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.

Whatever way you slice it, knowing how much booze you're imbibing is highly valuable. Here's a guide to those that are very low, moderately low, high, and very high. Cheers to whatever style suits you!

wine glasses seen from under the bar
Credit: Getty Images

Wine Alcohol Content, from Lowest to Highest

Sparkling Wine Alcohol Content

Wine

AVB

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

AVB

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

Wine

AVB

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 Txacolin

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

AVB

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