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?
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, keeps 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 good, so you opt for a medium glass of wine after with colleagues and the flow of the conversation.
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. Having six medium 175ml glasses of 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 be presented with a health scare suddenly and mine was 48 hours to live. So 13%? Yep, it isn’t obvious.
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 of the wine you are drinking, actually alcohol content.
Let’s take an example, so you have a glass of 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.
The 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: deep wines, especially the colour, mean 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, it’s 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 add ice to their red wine in the high heat, there you go!
However, now we know what an ABV is, let’s take it further with some examples.
Let’s take a standard 750ml bottle of wine: 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 colour that is 11.5 per cent 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!
- A standard glass of wine (175ml, ABV 12%) 2.1 units
- A 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.
It’s part of everyday life.
You notice a bottle of wine in the fridge and states it is 12.5% alcohol by volume, so ABV.
You can always find this on the back of 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. It’s 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?
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.
When it is harvested also has an impact.
The red wine crop gets harvested later than the white wine grapes and that crop. We know wines come out at different 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 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, stop blood clots. Resveratrol which comes from the antioxidants, also decreases bad cholesterol (LDL) while increasing 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 mentions it.
Moderation, of course, can help, but more and more people see moderation as not being the medically advised amount. We justify that it is 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 and white, red, rose, and fizz that is 0.0 ABV and its under 40 calories per glass.
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, growing by over 23 per cent.
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.