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Wine Alcohol Content Guide


In general, the alcohol content of wine has increased considerably. Critics are putting pressure on winemakers to intensify the flavors, and that means riper grapes, explains the director of wine studies at the French Culinary Institute, Marnie Old, in New York City. Thanks to scientific advances in farming, winemakers can harvest grapes later in the season with less risk, this permits fuller-bodied wines with more alcohol. Warmer climates also help, so a Riesling from California will be more potent than one from a cooler climate, Germany.

Very Low (under 12.5 percent)


Italian Asti, Italian Prosecco.


French Vouvray and Muscadet, German Riesling, Portuguese Vinho Verde, Spanish Txacolina.


California White Zinfandel, Portuguese rosés.

Moderately Low (12.5 to 13.5 percent)


California sparkling wine, French Champagne, Spanish Cava.


Austrian Grüner Veltliner, Australian Riesling, French Alsace white, French Loire and Bordeaux whites, French white Burgundy, Italian Pinot Grigio, New York Riesling, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Oregon Pinot Gris, South African Sauvignon Blanc, Spanish Albarino.


French rosés, Spanish rosés.


French Beaujolais and Burgundy, French Bordeaux, Italian Chianti, Spanish Rioja.

High (13.5 to 14.5 percent)


Australian Chardonnay, California Chardonnay, California Pinot Gris, California Sauvignon Blanc, California Viognier, Chilean Chardonnay, French Sauternes, South African Chenin Blanc.


Argentine Malbec, Australian Shiraz, California Cabernet Sauvignon, California Pinot Noir, California Syrah, Chilean Merlot, French Rhône red, Italian Barolo.

Very High (more than 14.5 percent)


French Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise (fortified), Portuguese Madeira (fortified), Spanish sherry (fortified).


California Petite Sirah, California Zinfandel, Italian Amarone, Portuguese port (fortified).