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Dear Dr. Vinny,
How can I reduce the alcohol content in wine I buy from the store? It doesn't matter if it's a little costly or even if I have to build my own machine that uses a pot still for myself—what are my options?
—Mina, Pretoria, South Africa
The alcohol content of a wine is determined during fermentation, when the sugar from the grapes is converted into alcohol. To make a lower-alcohol wine, the most direct way is to pick grapes when they are less ripe. Less ripe means less sugar, which will convert to less alcohol.
After fermentation, there are some fancy ways to dial back levels of alcohol, including spinning cones and reverse osmosis. The easiest way would be just to add some water to dilute the wine. Some folks find the idea of winemakers “watering back” controversial, a cheat to stretch and cheapen wine. But if you’re sitting at home and you want to reduce the alcohol content in the glass of wine in front of you, you can add water (or an ice cube).
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