Monday Musings: Low Alcohol Wines

Hydrometer

Today’s Monday musing is about low alcohol wines. The above photo is of a hydrometer. As a home winemaker, I use a hydrometer to measure the alcohol in my must and to check if fermentation has stopped. These seem to be all the rage but I was thinking what constitutes low alcohol and is there a standard definition or level. Apparently the official definition is that for whites it’s below 12.5% ABV and for reds below 13%. I think that’s absurd. When I first moved to Italy, whites were 12% ABV and reds around 12.5%-13.5%. Only Amarone and Primitivo clocked in at 14%. The idea that below 12.5% is low alcohol is a sign of how far we’ve come from what was traditional. Honestly, low alcohol to me is 5%-6% of a Moscato or even 10%-11% is pushing it in my view. All of that said, I am happy if we go back to a 12% standard Wines with higher alcohol always demand more complex food pairings and tend to produce more headaches for those that suffer from that problem.

I am curious though if anyone else thinks these definitions are pushing it. I would love to hear other points of view.

2 comments

  1. I believe that WSET considers wines under 11% to be “low”, between 11-14% “medium”, and above 14% “high”. Not that this is the “right” way . . . but it’s A way that many wine students are learning to classify wines. 🙂

    And IMO, with climate change increasing ripeness and alcohol levels – 14% actually seems a bit low to be considered “high” alcohol.

    • That may be the case but it’s not the tradition in any of these reasons nor is it good for any of us. No reason for a still wine to be more than 14% in my opinion. For pairing, it is always out of sorts with that level of alcohol. I did Diploma back in 2008 and I have no recollection of that nor of the conversation. It was 12 years ago and the climate has gotten so much worse.

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