How Much Alcohol in Wine – ABV is the answer
So let’s start with a thought before we get into how much alcohol in wine. We have so many descriptions given to people as wine drinkers, some we are given by others and some we give to ourselves :
- Social drinker
- Average drinker
- Dry January
- An occasional one with dinner
- I drink only with my friends
- I have one when I get in
- I don’t really drink ( said with a glass in one hand very often)
In fact nowadays there are more personal labels than there are on wine bottles. I’m joking but we merge ad hoc thinking into reality very often.
So what is reality?
Well here in the UK we have someone called the UK Chief Medical Officer and they advise us on general medical issues. The message they really push and most GP’s to be honest, is to keep us as safe as possible from alcohol and not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week.
Now of course the reality is you could do a few drinks after work. Let’s say it’s been a tough week at work and you are being good so you opt for a medium glass of wine after with colleagues and the conversations flow.
Then after the bar a few of you head to a local eatery and the wine flows with your evening meal.
So let’s break it down:
- 3 in the pub
- 3 with your meal including the late bar you went into while waiting for your taxi, after all it’s only early,
- Now let us put that one night which is extreme for many but not unthinkable into context. By having six medium 175ml glasses of a so called 13% ABV wine puts you over the low risk drinking guidelines. Actually it is probably classed as binge drinking.
- I was just a wine social drinker but my liver gave up, so you don’t have to be extreme for you to suddenly be presented with a health scare and mine was 48 hours to live. So 13%? Yep it’s confusing.
Firstly and foremost check the ABV!
ABV (alcohol by volume) is a key component for anyone worried about drinking and if you are asking how much alcohol in wine, then it must be on your mind.
ABV is the diagnostic tool for finding out how strong your wine is. Simple!
Now imagine a fishbowl and how many fish displace the amount of water. Well ABV – Alcohol by Volume is the same really. No fish but it gives us the percentage the wine you are drinking that is actually alcohol content.
Let’s take an example, so you have a glass wine with 12% ABV on the menu and yes some places have them now which is a good thing. So in your head you need to clock that is 12% pure alcohol. It’s like a ladder, the higher up the scale well the more alcohol in your glass or bottle.
Quick tip is to try and opt for wines that have a lower ABV. You can now easily check in the supermarket, shopping mall if you are out and about.
Bars by law have to have that information to hand. If they refuse, challenge them.
Which wine has the most alcohol ?
So a quick check seemed to confirm what I was thinking, which is that deep wines especially the color means a high percentage but it’s not always the case. Let’s look at some in my local supermarket drinks aisle.
- Most Shiraz — 14-15%
- Red Zinfandels — 14-15.5%
- Muscat — 15%
- Sherry — 15-20%
- Port — 20%
- Marsala — 20%
- Madeira — 20%
So you can see straight away that these wines are great quality but darker in depth so more ABV – Alcohol by Volume. By the way its not saying these are made badly, this is purely about awareness.
Red or white wine in terms of alcohol ?
Actually there is not much in it. Although with white wine you can have ice in it to fill the glass or even make it a sprinter. White wine has more options. Although the Spanish do add ice to their red wine in the high heat, so there you go!
However now we know what an ABV is lets take it further with some examples.
Let’s take a standard 750ml bottle of wine which could be red, white or rosé wine at an ABV of 13.5% .
This contains 10 units. Remember the recommended amount is 14 units per week.
Now before you say I would never drink a bottle, in reality if you have two large glasses of wine then you are looking at the bottle really. There ain’t much left.
- Let’s try a different version of a 750ml bottle of wine of either color that is 11.5 percent which to be fair is more likely in the white wine range.
- In terms of this bottle and units this amounts to around 8.6.
- One bottle at 13.5 ABV has 10.1 units.
Not much in it is there? So let’s break it down for you as a single glass of wine drinker, I knew you were here somewhere!
- Standard glass of wine (175ml, ABV 12%) 2.1 units
- Large glass of wine (250ml, ABV 12%) 3 units
So how much is that in terms of a bottle a night?
So say you had a bad day at work and decide to come home and watch a movie. Like Sideways lol. It’s part of everyday life. In the fridge you notice a bottle of wine and states it is 12.5% alcohol by volume so ABV. You can always find this on the back on the bottle by the way.
Now imagine you consume the whole bottle just relaxing with your feet up. So in effect your allowance for that night is a whopping seven Standard Drinks. Not large but standard. Simple right?
It all adds up but we may not think about it. Why would we? The ABV figure is not on the glass its on the bottle. So once the bottle is open, that’s it.
The wine glass which has now got bigger and bigger over the years has no label and after a glass you have probably forgotten about it anyway.
Does Red Wine have more alcohol than white wine?
Well as we discussed it seems there are exceptions however in general, red wines have more (ABV) than white wines. It all falls to the fermentation and the richer the grapes the more sugar content which is thanks to the yeast converting to alcohol during fermentation.
There is also something about when it is harvested. What seems to be the case which would make sense. The red wine crop gets harvested later than the white wine grapes and that crop. We know wines come out at difference times of the year. I remember as a kid the Beaujolais Nouveau run being a big thing from France to the UK.
However, if you have seen the stats above there is not much in it as red wine is generally drunk more slowly and many people have ice in their wine or soda so the differences are not always as clear as first thought.
Can wine be good for your health ?
Now this comes with a big caveat. My liver nearly failed completely from being a white wine social drinker in what I thought was not extreme at all. One look at many newspaper headlines tells a different story.
“Improve heart health and may prevent heart diseases”. I have seen that as a headline and yes some of it may be true.
It’s also a fact that red wine has antioxidants, which can protect your blood vessels and therefore certainly stop blood clots. Resveratrol which comes from the antioxidants also decreases bad cholesterol known as (LDL), while increasing the good cholesterol (HDL).
Your weekly limit
However, if you are going over your weekly limit or drinking it all on one go after work in the evening you can forget about those benefits as your liver will be taking a pounding and none of these headlines mention it.
Moderation of course can help but more and more people are seeing moderation as not being the medical advised amount. We justify to ourselves that it good for stress and the heart but forget the other diseases that may come about as a result
Wine may have other health benefits however it can also put your liver at risk.
Is alcohol free wine an option?
Absolutely and I have now written a review that shows the improvement the wine industry is making both in taste but also white, red, rose and fizz that is 0.0 ABV and its under 40 calories per glass as well.
For more help on drinking visit alcohol aware
The interesting and challenging thing is that these wines are still hard to come by in restaurants and bars whereas the big beer industry has really taken a leap of faith in the market which is growing by over 23 percent.
I always love to read your comments. How much do you think you drink in a week without really knowing? Do you keep to the recommended amount? Were you surprised how much alcohol in wine? Will you carry on and stay the same or will you change anything?
Please leave your message below. I always respond.