Alcohol Content in Wine: Just How Much?

alcohol content in wine infographic

If you’re trying to figure out just the alcohol content in wine, then you’re in the right place. I’ve put together this general overview to get you started with alcohol content in different wines.

Step 1: Grab a bottle of wine and find the ABV or alcohol by volume.

Step 2: Grab another bottle and find the ABV on that bottle. They should be different (unless you have 2 of the same bottle).

What Is ABV and How Is it Measured in Wine?

alcohol content in wine - wine label
Here’s a Napa Valley Cabernet from Stags’ Leap. It has 14.3% alcohol by volume.

ABV, or Alcohol by Volume, in wine – it’s like the secret ingredient that adds a little kick to your favorite bottle. But what exactly does ABV mean, and how do we measure it?

When you see ABV, it means that the percentage listed is how much of the total volume is alcohol, in this case ethanol.

So if a wine has 12% alcohol by volume (12% ABV), then 12% of that 750 ml bottle is ethanol (about 90 ml).

When you spot ABV on a wine label, it’s like a little clue about the wine’s strength. It’s a percentage that tells you how much alcohol is in your bottle. Below, you’ll find five charts of alcohol level in common wine styles:

  1. Alcohol in White Wines
  2. Alcohol in Red Wines
  3. Alcohol in Rose Wines
  4. Alcohol in Sparkling Wines
  5. Alcohol in Fortified wines
  6. Alcohol in Wine vs Beer
  7. Alcohol in Wine vs Sake
  8. Alcohol in Wine vs Spirits

Why Are Some Wines Higher in Alcohol?

The level of alcohol in wine is directly proportional to the amount of sugar in the grapes before fermentation. Riper grapes mean more sugar. More sugar means higher alcohol wines. Hot regions produce higher-sugar berries that ferment into higher alcohol wines (e.g., Paso Robles).

Helpful Tip: Here’s everything you need to know about wine fermentation and how it works.

How Does Alcohol Level Affect How Wine Tastes?

One of the things about alcohol in wine that usually surprises people when I tell them is that alcohol is tied to body in wine.

Fun Wine Facts:
Lower-alcohol wines are lighter in body.
Higher alcohol wines are fuller-bodied.

Higher alcohol wines will also burn more and heat up your chest. Something to keep in mind on a cool winter’s night by the fire.

Helpful Tip: Here’s a guide that will help you figure out how to read a wine label.

Alcohol Content in White Wine

percentage of alcohol in white wine - alcohol content in wine

White wines vary in alcohol levels, typically ranging from around 9% to 14.5% ABV.

Many white wine lovers appreciate the lighter side of white wines, seeking a crisp and refreshing drinking experience, but you can find high alcohol whites as well.

White Wine
Wine NameAlcohol Range (ABV)Country of Origin
Moscato d’Asti5-7%Italy
Vinho Verde9-11%Portugal
Chenin Blanc9-13%France, South Africa
Grüner Veltliner11-14%Austria
Vermentino11-14%Italy, France
Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris11-14%Italy, France
Sauvignon Blanc11-14%France, New Zealand
Gewürztraminer12-14%Germany, France
Chardonnay12-14.5%France, USA, Australia
Pinot Blanc12-14.5%France, Germany
White Burgundy12-14.5%France
White Hermitage13-15%France
Sémillon12-15%France, Australia
White Rioja12-15%Spain

Red Wine Alcohol Percentage

alcohol level in red wine - red wine glass

Check out this list of alcohol in red wines. You’ll find lighter red wines, like Beaujolais Nouveau, all the way to Sagrantino and tannic Tannat. Friendly

Tip: Remember, alcohol level corresponds to grape ripeness. Warmer growing regions have riper fruit with jammier aromas and flavors.

How does this affect your wine drinking experience? Example:

  • Wine A: A Cabernet Sauvignon wine made in a cool region, like Haut Medoc, during a mild summer maybe has 12.5% ABV and will have flavors of under-ripe black currant green bell pepper notes.
  • Wine B: A Cabernet Sauvignon made from grapes grown on a western-facing slope in Paso Robles get full afternoon sun. The wine will express jammy blackberry, black currant, and mint and has an ABV of 14.8%.

By looking at the percentage of alcohol in red wine, you can start to figure out how your red wine is going to present itself in your glass. It’s a little clue.

Red WineABV RangeCountry
Beaujolais Nouveau11-13%France
Pinot Noir11-14.5%France, USA, New Zealand
Grenache/Garnacha11-15%France, Spain
Carignan12-14%France, Spain
Merlot12-14.5%France, USA
Syrah/Shiraz12-15%France, Australia
Cabernet Franc12-15%France, USA
Zinfandel13-16%USA, Italy
Cabernet Sauvignon13-16%France, USA, Chile
Amarone della Valpolicella14-16%Italy
Petite Sirah/Durif14-16%USA, France, Australia
Tannat14-16%Uruguay, France

Alcohol Content in Sparkling Wine

level of alcohol in sparkling wine - champagne glass - alcohol content in wine

The alcohol level in sparkling wine tends to be lower than in dry wines. Sparkling wines do best with just-ripe grapes from cooler growing regions, like Champagne.

Here’s a list of sparkling wines and their corresponding percentage of alcohol.

Sparkling Wine
Wine NameAlcohol Range (ABV)Country of Origin
Asti Spumante7-9.5%Italy
Sparkling Rosé11-13%Various regions
English Sparkling Wine11-13.5%England

Helpful Tip: Go explore Does Champagne have sugar, here.

Alcohol Content in Rose Wine

percentage of rose in a wine - pool with glass of rose - alcohol content in wine

Rosé wines generally have a lower alcohol content compared to red or white wines, typically ranging from 9% to 14.5% ABV.

The lighter alcohol level in rosé wines contributes to their lighter body, and refreshing, and easy-drinking style.

The lower alcohol content also helps maintain a balanced and delicate profile that pairs well with casual sipping, appetizers, and lazy afternoons.

Rose Wine
Wine NameAlcohol Range (ABV)Country of Origin
White Zinfandel9-11%United States
Provence Rosé11-13%France
Côtes de Provence Rosé11-13%France
Rioja Rosado12-14%Spain
Pinot Noir Rosé12-14%Various regions
Grenache Rosé12-14.5%France, Spain

Helpful Tip: Get started with rose wines here.

Alcohol Content in Fortified WineStand Back, Baby!

alcohol content in fortified wine - 19% Madeira
Check out this Madeira wine. 19% ABV. Whoo, mama!

Fortified wines are a type of wine that’s been fortified with additional alcohol, typically in the form of grape spirits, such as brandy or aguardente.

Adding extra alcohol increases the wine’s overall alcohol content and to preserve it – historically for long voyages.

Adding the spirit not only raises the ABV (alcohol by volume) of the wine but also adds unique flavors and aromas, resulting in a distinctive experience.

Helpful Tip: I love fortified wines. Head over to Fortified vs Unfortified What’s the Difference to discover more.

Fortified Wine
Wine NameAlcohol Range (ABV)Country of Origin
Pedro Ximénez15-17%Spain
Vin Santo15-17%Italy

Is Wine Getting More Alcoholic?

kangaroos in a vineyard - percentage of alcohol in wine - alcohol content in wine
Attribute: Jamie C2009

Yes, wine is becoming more alcoholic. Regional weather patterns around wine-growing regions have been trending upwards, leading to riper grapes that accumulate more sugar.

More sugar in the grape means more alcohol.

Rising temperatures are changing the profiles of iconic wines in some of the world’s most traditional winegrowing regions, from Bordeaux to Burgundy. Most recently, Bordeaux approved the expansion of permitted grapes to include the Portuguese red grape, Touriga Nacional, which is heat-loving blockbuster.

Other changes include planting vineyards at higher (cooler) elevations, and modifying vineyard practices, like modifying pruning to maximize airflow or installing irrigation.

Percentage of Alcohol in Wine vs Sake

Wine vs Beer
DrinkAlcohol Range (ABV)Country of Origin
Wine5-15%Various regions
Beer2-10%Various regions

Percentage of Alcohol in Wine vs Sake

Wine vs Sake
DrinkAlcohol Range (ABV)Country of Origin
Wine5-15%Various regions

Alcohol in Wine Compared to Spirits

Wine vs Spirits
DrinkAlcohol Range (ABV)Country of Origin
Wine5-15%Various regions
Vodka40-50%Various regions
Whisky40-60%Various regions

Thirsty for More?

Go explore how alcohol affects wine.

Here’s a helpful list of light red wines (if you’re not into the big reds).

And if you do like big and bold reds, here’s a post on strong red wines just for you.

I put together this quick overview of 11 classic wine growing regions around the world and their signature grapes any budding wine-lover should know.

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