Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Which has a higher alcohol content—red or white wine?
—Helen S., Birmingham, Ala.
In general, red wines have higher alcohol content than white wines, but it varies from wine to wine. Remember that alcohol directly correlates to the ripeness (i.e., sugar content) of grapes. As grapes ferment, the sugar converts to alcohol. Red wines tend to be picked at a higher ripeness (more sugar) than white wines, which is a combination of both winemaking style and the physiology of the grape.
If you're ever curious about a wine's alcohol content, check out the percentage of alcohol by volume, which is always listed on the label. That's the law in the U.S.—although the number is a bit of a guesstimate. The regulations allow for as much as 1.5% leeway in either direction, so a label could say 12% alcohol if the wine were actually as much as 13.5% or as little as 10.5%.