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,
I like the taste of wine, but not of alcohol. Are there any full-flavored wines that are very low in alcohol?
—Jak, Boylston, S.C.
The vast majority of wines fall in the range of 12 to 14 percent alcohol by volume. The degree to which the alcohol might be perceived in terms of taste can depend on many factors, including the wine’s style and its balance between alcohol and other elements like flavor, tannins, body and acidity. There is not just one thing that determines a wine’s balance—it’s a combination of dozens of factors, including what kind of grapes, when they were picked and many winemaking decisions, including the final blend.
Some wines emphasize boldness and ripeness; others are more elegant and nuanced. Some are known for their mouthwatering acidity; others leave a drying, tannic impression. Pay attention to the wines that you are picking out—I’d avoid anything described as “hot” or having “heat” (wine terms that indicate the perception of alcohol).
Speaking of heat, serving temperature has a huge impact on how wine tastes. When a wine is served on the warm side, the alcohol can stick out and feel like it burns. Consider serving your wines chilled—even reds.
There are some wines marketed as "low alcohol," and they’re typically below 10 percent ABV. I've tried a few of them, and they were pretty innocuous; dilute, fruit-forward and sometimes a bit on the sweet side.