“The sharper is the berry, the sweeter is the wine.” -Proverb
Most alcohol content charts have wine at a gentle 12% alcohol by volume per 8 ounce glass, whereas beer tends to be 5% and liquor 40%. However, over the past 20 years, as wine has gained in popularity and production, it has actually increased to as much as 17% ABV. For some people, this is great, for others, it’s better to seek wines with lower alcohol content for various reasons.
Why is Wine Boozier?
The increase of alcohol in wine is a result of the higher quantities produced and the demand for richer flavors. Wine gains the alcohol content through the fermentation process when the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is used. Wine scientists are looking into an alternative wild yeast that will turn less sugar in the grape juice into alcohol in order to maintain the quality of wine without watering it down or turning to genetically modified organisms.
Many people favor the rich colors, scent, and taste of darker wines, which causes wineries to follow their customers’ taste. This is mostly seen in New World wines, whereas Old World wines usually have less alcohol by volume. However, in order to keep up with the sales of New Worlds, some are also increasing their alcohol.
Wines with a sweeter flavor are winning the awards, thanks to famous wine critic,. who praised “fruit bombs.” When a judge has a lot of wine to taste, often the ones that stand out on top are the sweetest.
What’s Wrong with High Alcohol Content Wine?
Although many drink wine in order to let loose, some don’t want the quality of the wine to deteriorate as a result. Wine is compared to as a drink of the gods, but gods need to keep their health and ability to function in check. High alcohol content leads to increased waist sizes and other negative effects on the body. Old World wines are picked sooner than New World, which means they have less sugar content in the fruit.
The bouquet of each wine is also affected by an increase of alcohol, including the ability of the aroma to diffuse into air. Wine and food pairings struggle more as the rich wines don’t go well with delicate foods. Your enjoyment of wine with a meal out with friends will decrease as you get more drunk, and it doesn’t complement your food very well.
On the other hand, economically, wines over a certain percentage of alcohol by volume are taxed more. As the global temperatures increase, this means the grapes are growing quicker and if they’re not picked in time, more sugar is present.
How They Will Lower Alcohol Content
Currently, wine scientists and microbiologists are tinkering with a wild yeast that they found in Australia called Metschnikowia pulcherrima. This yeast is said to decrease alcohol content by as much as 1.5%, specifically in an Australian Shiraz. The amount of alcohol reduction depends on the type of wine and process.
For some, M. pulcherrima is used first but it dies before fermentation is complete, so S. cerevisiae is brought in to finish the job. With Chardonnays, M. pulcherrima produces more ethyl acetate, which smells like nail polish.
There are a handful of positives and negatives to this new yeast. Some are concerned that wineries will not pick it up because it adds another step to the fermentation process. For now, scientists are still playing around with what would be best in the long run and reproducible in a production situation.
The Trend Towards Low-Alcohol Wine
In addition to the focus on quality, women are driving the market towards quieter wines like moscato, which are floral, light, and low-alcohol. Moscatos pair nicely in the summer time with fruit and cheese. Its versatility also means it pairs well with brunch and spicy foods too. Another benefit is that it’s affordable with quality moscatos as low as $8.
Lighter wines like moscatos and Rieslings are popular because you can share more than a glass or two with friends without tripping over your own feet. There’s less worry on bulking up and pairs nicely with a variety of meals. Fans of rich reds want this opportunity too so many are excited about this new wild yeast and hoping for an effective solution to creating low-alcohol red wines.
Many people buy wine that are whites and roses because of the lower alcohol content. Barefoot Pink Moscato is a rose wine at 9% ABV that rolled out to please lighter drinkers. Gallo, a California wine, created “Summer White” with a 5.5% ABV on the extreme end of the low-alcohol trend. In many aspects of life and business, people are generally looking more towards quality rather than quantity and it’s only natural that wine would follow suit.
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