I found this really interesting article at wineanorak.com. I have noticed that the alcohol levels in wine have been on a steady increase and wondered why. So, I put my geek glasses on, dove in, and did some research. It’s really fascinating stuff.

Turns out it’s not just me that has noticed this trend and is now a huge discussion in the wine community. Once table wine, according to the article, averaged around 12%. Now it is not uncommon to have a wine with a 14% to 15% content. That’s a significant increase.

Alcohol is produced by a complicated process of photosynthesis, basically fermentation of sugars by the yeast. The higher the sugar level grapes, the higher the final alcohol level in the wine.

According to the author these are the possibilities that can be considered on the issue. They are as follows:

Global warming-over the last 50 years, data has shown that the average temperatures in most to all wine regions have increased significantly. Warmer growing seasons result in riper grapes with higher sugar levels. Improved Viticulture has led to grapes being picked in a riper state. Winemakers are opting for later picking with the intent being harvesting a sweeter grape.

The concern for winemakers is that with increased alcohol content the characteristics and taste of the wine are impacted. The thought is that it makes all wines taste alike, hence the alcohol impacts the nuances of the wine.

The plan to remedy all this is three prong. The first plan of action is to remove alcohol from wine after the fermentation via reverse osmosis. This removed water, alcohols, and other small molecules out of the wine.

Vineyard intervention is also an option. Here it gets really specific and scientific. It includes everything from more robust irrigation to wine picking strategies based on the varying ripening of grapes.

Lastly, winemakers are looking at modifying the yeast used to produce the alcohol through genetic adjustments. Seems like a viable, straight to the point option.

As we are all looking for natural, organic processes to wine production, it does seem counter-productive to have to use science to modify the natural developement of the grapes. I do, however, agree with the writer
that increased alcohol levels are a concern. I concur that it does indeed impact the palate of the wine.

That’s my science lesson of the day my wine friends. I always find these things interesting.

Happy Wining All!