How Much Alcohol is in Wine?

beautiful women drinking wine

Wine is so delicious and easy to drink, sometimes you’ve got to be careful not to let the evening get away from you. If it’s a hot summer night and you’re enjoying a chilled white wine, for example, avoid temptation to drink as fast as the beer drinkers. Wine servings are usually small, just 5 oz or less, because of the high alcohol content. The number of servings you have is especially important to consider if you’re driving later. How much wine it takes to get drunk will depend on the style of wine, serving size, and other factors.

High Alcohol Wines (Over 15% ABV)

Dessert wines often have high alcohol content. Port, Marsala, and Madeira are usually around 20% ABV, as is Vermouth. Sherries, Zinfandels, and Shiraz are also often 15% ABV or higher.

Medium Alcohol Wines

Warmer climates support sweeter grapes, which means higher alcohol content in the wines they produce. At the higher end of the medium range (13.5%-15%) are wines from the Americas, Australia, Spain, and the warmer regions of Italy. Think Viognier, Chardonnay, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Pinotage, and Barolo.

Most European wines have a more middling range from 11.5-13.5% ABV, though there are a lot of American wines in this range, as well.  Here’s where you’ll find a lot of very familiar wines, such as Bordeaux and Bourgogne from France, as well as Barbera, Nebbiolo, and Dolcetto wines from Italy. Sauvignon Blancs and Rosés also have alcohol levels in this middle range.

Toward the lower end of the medium range are wines from the cooler regions of Italy, Germany, and France. For example, Pinot Grigio, Soave, and Gavi wines tend to be lower alcohol, in the 10-11.5% ABV range.

Low Alcohol Wines

Italy produces some great sparkling wines below 10%, such as Moscato d’Asti. Kabinett and Spätlese Rieslings from Germany also fall into this range, as do Alsace Blanc and Muscadet from France. Keep in mind that while these are low alcohol for wine, they’re still packing a bigger punch than most beers. While there are certainly craft beers with 10% or more alcohol, you’ll notice those are also served in tulips and smaller glasses.

How Many Wine Servings Per Glass?

friends at a party toasting with wine

Wine glasses vary in volume and, if you’re using them properly, you should not be filling them all the way to the top! Red wine glasses have a large bowl, which is meant to collect the aromas and deliver them to your nose as you sip.

This enhances the taste of the wine so you can appreciate its depth and complexity. White wine glasses have smaller bowls, putting the surface of the wine closer to your nose while also keeping the wine temperature cool as you drink.

A standard serving of wine is about 5 oz for a medium alcohol wine at about 12% ABV. If you’re keeping track of servings per hour, this is the volume you should aim for. Standard servings of Port and other high alcohol wines tend to be smaller, closer to 3 oz.

Likewise, lower alcohol wines are often served above that standard pour line. Note that unless there’s a line marking that volume on the wine glass, there is bound to be some variation.

(Restaurants where you buy wine by the glass often give you more than 5 oz, too.)

So, with a precise pour, the answer should be about one serving per glass. In reality, it varies because not every pour is going to be exactly 5 oz, and not every wine is 12%.

How Does Wine Make You Feel Drunk?

What causes that happiness, dizziness, and euphoria? When you drink wine or other alcoholic beverages, the alcohol first is first absorbed by your digestive system. The ethanol then enters your bloodstream, which carries it through your body to all of your tissues, including your brain. This is why lots of people feel sleepy, happy, and calm after drinking. The alcohol affects your brain and central nervous system, also impacting your concentration and coordination.

How Much Wine to Get Drunk?

Clearly, the volume and percentage of alcohol is key in determining how much wine it will take to feel drunk. There are several other factors, too.

  • How fast you’re drinking. Obviously if you’re drinking more quickly, your body will be confronted with a larger dose of alcohol all at once. When your body absorbs it, your blood alcohol concentration will be higher than if you’d been drinking slowly.  
  • Whether you’ve eaten. Having food in your stomach will slow the absorption of alcohol by your digestive system.
  • Your alcohol tolerance. This is highly variable. If you drink more often, chances are that your tolerance is higher so it will take more wine for you to feel drunk than someone who never drinks wine.

Sobering Up Safely

Alcohol is slowly metabolized by your body, mainly in your liver, which takes time. This is why just one standard drink per hour is a good rate if you know you need to drive home later. No amount of water or coffee will make it safe for you to get behind the wheel if you have a high blood alcohol level.  Get a ride from a friend or call a rideshare if you realize you’ve had too much!

Avoiding a Hangover

The best way to avoid the dreaded wine hangover is to not overindulge. This can be tricky to gauge, especially for new drinkers or those who usually just drink beer. The average wine has more than twice as much alcohol as the average beer, so you can’t expect to drink as much or as quickly.

The key? Take it slow. Enjoy each sip, taking in the aromas of the wine as you drink it. If you begin feeling its effects faster than you’re comfortable with, have a glass of water before you pour another.

Take the time to drink a full glass of water before bed, too. This can take the edge off a night of drinking, even if you’re not feeling particularly drunk as you crawl between the sheets.  The symptoms of a hangover are due to dehydration, so the water will help replenish your body as you sleep. You can avoid the headaches, nausea, and all the other unpleasant symptoms the next morning.

Enjoy Wine Responsibly

We realize that we constantly encourage wine drinkers to try new styles and buy more wine.  Still, we always want you to drink responsibly! Be sure you have a safe ride home if you plan the occasional night of overindulgence.  

Cheers!

women drinking wine at a party