Does the Color of Wine Determine the Alcohol by Content?

Alcohol is a major part of many people’s lives. It is a gateway to socializing on weekends or after work, it compliments our meals, and it also, when used responsibly, can make us feel pretty good and relaxed. Wine especially achieves all of those things. There are parties and events devoted to wine tastings, stores devoted to helping you find the right bottle to pair with a steak or fancy cheese, and the overall act of drinking wine—from the uncorking to the pour into a long-stemmed glass, to the process of taking that first sip—invokes feelings of class and elegance. There is a lot to learn about wine, especially about the difference between the two colors of white and red, and how that affects you when you drink it.

First off, what exactly is wine? Wine is the pressed juice that comes from fermented grapes. That is, of course, a very simple way of breaking down a complicated and arduous process which involves growing specific types of grapes for a predetermined amount of time in the right kind of weather, harvesting them, pressing the juice, aging it in a barrel, and bottling it up for consumption.

The species of grape used to make wine has very much to do with the composition of the wine itself. The skin, pulp, and stems of the wine will determine the color, the flavor, and the amount of tannins, or natural preservatives, in the wine. Red wines are made with red or dark grapes, and white wine can be made with either white (“green”) or dark-skinned grapes. The type of grape will also determine where the wine is from (a warmer or cooler climate), how long they must grow on the vine and when they should be harvested, and how long the juice must ferment. The difference in color between white and red wines is that the skins of the grapes are removed after pressing for a white wine, and they are left intact for red wines. Again, the colors within these two main types will also vary depending on the factors listed above.

So, which of these wines has the higher alcohol content? In general, red wines will have a higher alcohol by volume (ABV), but this will vary from wine to wine. Alcohol comes from the fermentation of the sugar in the grape, and the riper the grape, the higher the sugar content. Typically, red wine grapes are left on the vine to ripen much longer than white wine grapes, so their alcohol content is higher, but you could also hypothetically do the same with a white wine grape, upping that wine’s alcohol content as well. If ever in doubt about a wine’s alcohol content, check the bottle’s label. The percentage of alcohol by volume will always be there, so that you can be well-informed before you imbibe.