I am such a wimp. I live in Las Vegas, Nevada and I’m already struggling with winter weather and it’s only in the mid-40s! Just last night, while creating this week’s Wine Craft, I had to put on two sweatshirts, sweatpants, and two pairs of socks, wrap myself in a blanket, and pour myself glass of Red Zinfandel just to keep going. If you were to see a picture of me, it would be one of the saddest and funniest sights that you would ever lay eyes on. Anyways, after 30 minutes of so, I was warmed enough to start taking off the multiple layers of clothing and took a look at the back of the bottle. I started thinking…
What is it About High-Alcohol Wines?
When someone talks about alcohol in a wine, they refer to how warm or “hot” it feels in the mouth and near the throat. (If you go to a blind tasting, you’ll often hear sommeliers and other wine pros calling a wine “hot” – that usually means they’re feeling the burn, literally.) On a wine’s label, you can clearly see the percentage of alcohol that is in the bottle (while keep in mind that there is a slight variance). It’ll usually be listed as “ABV” (alcohol by volume) and a number between 9% and 16%.
Here’s an idea of what the range of alcohol in wine looks like:
Low Alcohol Warmth
- Less than 12% ABV
- Found in wines like: Rieslings and Beaujolais
- What you feel when you taste: A screwdriver (vodka and orange juice) or another alcohol drink where the warmth is mostly covered up
Medium Alcohol Warmth
- Between 12-13.5% ABV
- Found in wines like: Bordeaux, Cava, and Pinot Grigio
- What you feel when you taste: a Cosmopolitan (vodka, cranberry juice, lime, and Cointreau) or another cocktail where you feel a touch of warmth, especially at the end
High Alcohol Warmth
- 14% ABV or above
- Found in wines like: Petite Sirah, Amarone, Red Zinfandel
- What you feel when you taste: a shot of whiskey! Feel the burn!
Mario’s Picks for the Best High-Alcohol Wines:
14.9% ABV from Russian River Valley, California
- Try: Foppiano Estate Petite Sirah 2012 $18: BUY ME
15.0% ABV from the Veneto, Italy
- Try: Masi Costasera Amarone Classico 2011 $53: BUY ME
15.8% ABV from Lodi, California
- Try: Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel 2013 $19: BUY ME
20% ABV from Porto, Portugal
- Try: Graham’s Vintage Port 2000 $53: BUY ME
Enjoy! Stay warm everyone and happy holidays!
P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about alcohol in wine (and lots of other things like oak, acid, and the basics of the six most popular varietals), check out my Wine for Beginners course!
Mario Luna is a Certified Sommelier and owner of Mario Luna Somm, a company dedicated to “Developing the Sommelier in You” through online wine courses, blogs, and other user-friendly content. He lives in Las Vegas where, in addition to working on the famous Las Vegas Strip, he serves as a consultant for large-scale wine events, specialty shops, and all kinds of wine tastings. You can contact Mario through mariolunasomm.com or check out his online wine courses.