How much wine will raise my blood alcohol level above the legal limit?

Jun 8, 2011

Q: In response to the previous Q&A, how many 5 ounce pours of 12 percent alcohol wine would constitute the legal limit, given that the passage of time and food consumption does affect the measured blood alcohol levels?—Robert

A: Blood Alcohol Content, or BAC, is the percentage of alcohol in the bloodstream. Since 2009, the federal government has mandated that each state have a .08 BAC legal limit for driving, and it only takes a few drinks to raise your BAC beyond the legal limit. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), BAC depends on a few variables, such as gender, weight, how much you eat beforehand and how much time passes between drinks. Usually, men can consume more alcohol than women before their BAC surpasses the legal driving limit. In general, a 137-pound female would need to consume three glasses of wine in an hour to be above the .08 level, while a 170-pound male can drink up to four glasses of wine in an hour and be at or above the .08 level. One drink of wine is defined as a 5-ounce pour with a 12 percent ABV. If the wine has a higher percentage of alcohol, the serving size would need to be reduced accordingly or fewer drinks should be consumed. Keep in mind, these are guidelines and only help give a rough determination.

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