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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Where can I find 30 percent alcohol wine?

—Shaunada, Mobile, Ala.

Dear Shaunada,

I don’t think you can. Most wines hover around 12 to 17 percent alcohol by volume. Fortified wines like Port or Sherry can get up to around 20 to 22 percent, but that’s because they have spirits added, usually neutral, distilled grape spirits.

Why do most wines fall in this range? It’s the sugar in ripe grapes that, with the help of yeast, converts to alcohol during fermentation. Grapes can only get so ripe—and have so much sugar in them—after all. Even if you try to add sugar during the fermentation process, the yeasts will eventually tire out, and too much sugar can have the effect of stopping fermentation.

If you’re looking for something to drink with that high alcohol, you’re going to have to look at spirits—and probably distilled ones. Remember that according to the Tax & Trade Bureau, a “table wine” is considered no more than 14 percent alcohol for tax purposes. Wines above that are taxed at a higher rate and considered “dessert wine” or “fortified wine.”

—Dr. Vinny

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