When it comes to determining the amount of alcohol within any drink, some measurements are easier to make compared to others. For example, when you are dealing with Vodka, you can easily tell how much alcohol is in it by taking the proof number and dividing it by two; if it shows on the label it is 80 proof, then the amount of alcohol within that bottle is 40%.
When it comes to wine, making this assessment is just as easy, but sometimes harder to see, as the writing is typically very small to read along any label. The average alcohol content of wine within each bottle is between 11.5% and 13.5%, but there are wines within the marketplace where the alcohol percentage in wine can range anywhere from 5% up to 23.5%.
Within this article, we’ll show how the standard way winemakers determine the amount of alcohol within wine, as well as what percentage of alcohol consumers can expect from certain lines of wine.
How to determine Alcohol content of Wine as a Winemaker
If you are fortunate enough to be someone who makes wine as a living, or are thinking about entering into this arena, one of the most important aspects for when you are ready to sell the wine is to know how much alcohol is within the bottle. Too much alcohol, and the wine is going to come across as too strong and not smooth; too little alcohol, and it’ll be very flat to drink. Figuring this out after the wine has been made is very detrimental, as you cannot do anything at this point to alter the amount of alcohol within the bottle of wine.
To alter the alcohol content within each batch, it needs to changed during the fermentation portion of the wine making process. The most common tool used to figure out the amount of alcohol present during the process is called a Wine Hydrometer. This tool is a cylinder tool, which floats within your liquid batch and is measuring the amount of sugar within the batch. If the Hydrometer floats very high in the batch, then there is a lot of sugar within the batch; likewise, if it drops more towards the bottom, it means there is not much sugar within the batch.
Sugar is a key element concerning the alcohol content, as sugar is what turns the yeast into alcohol during the fermentation process. This is the key variable in influencing the amount of alcohol within any batch you produce. You need to take a reading before the fermentation process begins, and then a second one when the fermentation process is complete. The first reading will give you a percentage (standard is around 10%-12%), and then the second reading will give you a variance, which you will add to the first amount to give you the expected amount of alcohol within that batch. Once you have this reading, you can put this reading on the label of the bottle of wine so the consumer knows what to expect.
How to determine Alcohol content of Wine as a Consumer
As a consumer, you do not need to have a fancy tool to determine the alcohol content, as the alcohol content is written right on the label. However, there is no standard place on the label where winemakers have to put this information. Some put it on the front label, whereas others put it on a back label. Sometimes it is along the bottom in a horizontal position, other times it is along the side in a vertical position. What you can be assured of is that the percentage is on the label somewhere, you just need to hunt for it and find it.
However, different kinds of wines typically have a certain amount of alcohol within them, so you can make a generalization based upon the type of wine you drink without having to look for the alcohol percentage. Here is a quick breakdown of some of the more popular wines within those categories:
Less than 10%
Between 10% and 11.5%
Between 11.5% and 13.5%
Between 13.5% and 15%
Due to the large assortment available within the marketplace, you are sure to find the right wine for you and your taste buds. And winemakers will continue to tinker with their own formulas to find just the right amount of alcohol to put within each bottle for your tasting enjoyment. And hopefully you can use this information to quickly determine the right amount of alcohol level you enjoy within your wine, and find some other wines within that range to enjoy.