Alcohol is an important component in wine.
Even though the word ‘wine’ has become synonymous with ‘alcohol’, it must be emphasized that alcohol is only one component of wine.
The other components are tannins, acidity and sweetness.
The existence of a wine’s alcohol can be felt in 2 ways. Firstly, alcohol gives off a warm sensation when it touches the insides of your mouth. That perception of heat is the natural way that our skin reacts to the presence of alcohol.
Secondly, alcohol is largely responsible for the ‘body’ or viscosity of the wine. Wines with higher alcohol content feel heavier and more viscous in your mouth.
So how did alcohol make its way into wine?
In order to make wine, crushed grapes are fermented together with yeast. During the fermentation process, the yeast converts the grapes and its sugars into wine and alcohol.
The alcohol content in wine can vary according to the climate in which the grapes were grown. Grapes grown in the warmer regions of France, such as Languedoc or the Rhone Valley in France, can produce wines with a high alcohol content (about 14%). This is because thanks to the warm climate, the grapes can become very ripe at harvest.
Grapes that are very ripe contain a higher sugar level, which can be converted into more alcohol. This is why most of the red wines that you taste from the south of France tend to have a heavier body.
But such a high alcohol content needs to be balanced with the other wine components. Alcohol is generally balanced against the acidity and fruitiness in wine.
If the wine’s alcohol level is too high relative to the other components, it can cause you to feel a burning sensation in your mouth. If it’s too low, the wine may taste dull and lack excitement.
So the next time you take a sip, take some time to appreciate whether the wine’s alcohol is well-balanced.
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