The Burden of Proof

How much booze is in that bottle?

| January / February 2006

Some nights you can gulp down a glass of wine and there's barely a buzz to show for your efforts. Other nights, you're three sheets to the wind in three sips. What gives?

People don't realize that the alcohol content of wine varies widely, from 8 to 18 percent, notes Anthony Giglio in the new food culture magazine Chow (Sept./Oct. 2005). Today 'more wines skew toward 14 percent,' which is a result of the current trend of leaving grapes on the vine longer. 'This is why so many red California zinfandels and Italian amarones, clocking in at upwards of 16 percent, taste nearly as potent as fortified port wine,' Giglio says.

Since too high an alcohol content can throw the taste out of balance and also make you tipsier than is tolerable when you're power lunching or dining with your evangelical Uncle Ned, you might want to opt for one of the new low-alcohol wines, such as White Lie Early Season Chardonnay (9.8 percent), which you can consume more copiously.

To please wine purists, choose a wine with 11 percent alcohol, the generally agreed on proper balance, and you'll get maximum taste with a moderate buzz.