Over the past few years alcohol levels have increased in wines, especially red wines. The general upper limit of alcohol today is about 15%. My Adler’s Blend Red Wine is 15.2%. Though some wines have higher levels most wines seem to have alcohol levels in the 14.5% to 14.75% range.
In doing research on this topic and reaching out to Napa Valley friends there seems to be several reasons for the higher alcohol levels:
- Global warming has raised the temperatures in most wine regions. The result is riper grapes with higher sugar levels. The higher the sugar level in the grape, the higher the alcohol level in the wine made from those grapes.
- Improved viticulture has led to grapes being picked in a riper state than in the past. This again means higher sugar levels on many grapes.
- Market conditions have dictated that red wines be a little heavier-bodied which is partially dictated by higher alcohol levels.
Here are a couple of questions that tend to come up when discussing a wine’s alcohol level.
Question: Does a wine’s age affect its alcohol level?
Answer: No, it doesn’t. A wine’s alcohol percentage is determined during the fermentation process when the sugar is converted into alcohol. From that point on, it remains constant throughout the aging process.
Question: Do high alcohol levels impact a wine’s aging process or cellaring potential to age?
Answer: As long as the wines are balanced (meaning the tannins, fruit, acidity and alcohol are nearly equal) they should have the ability to age just fine. If any of these four items aren’t balanced with the rest it will affect the wine’s taste and aging potential.
In addition to the winery producing a balanced wine, as I mentioned earlier, regions with more sun (warmer) and higher elevations will produce wines with higher alcohol levels and the ability to be cellared for years to come.
When purchasing your wine it makes good sense to look at alcohol levels and where the wines were produced, especially if you want to cellar the wines for any period of time greater than a year. As I mentioned earlier, wines with higher levels from warmer climates tend to age better.
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Until next week,
Calendar of Events
- December 16th – National Wine Club Day
- December 20th – National Sangria Day
- December 31st – National Champagne Day
- February 18th – National Drink Wine Day
- March 3rd – National Mulled Wine Day
- April 17th – International Malbec Day
- May 3rd – International Sauvignon Blanc Day
- May 9th – World Moscato Day
- May 23rd – International Chardonnay Day
- May 25th – National Wine Day
- June 8th – National Rosé Wine Day
- June 20th – National Lambrusco Day