India's First Wine, Food and Hospitality Website, INDIAN WINE ACADEMY, Specialists in Food & Wine Programmes. Food Importers in Ten Cities Across India. Publishers of delWine, India’s First Wine.
Skip Navigation Links
About Us
Indian Market
Wine & Health
Wine Events
Retail News
Contact Us
Skip Navigation Links
Wine Tourism
Book Review
Photo Gallery
Readers' Comments
Video Wall
Media Partners
Ask Wineguyindia
Wine & Food
Wine Guru
Gerry Dawes
Harvest Reports
Mumbai Reports
Advertise With Us
US Report on Indian Market Released
Top Ten Importers List 2015-16
On Facebook
On Twitter
Delhi Wine Club
Enter the World of Understated Alcohol in Wine

Posted: Wednesday, 06 July 2011 10:35

Enter the World of Understated Alcohol in Wine

July 06: The problem of increased alcohol levels due to global warming and the increasing aversion of wine drinkers to higher alcohol, has been solved by vintners with a majority of them systematically reporting lower levels on the bottle, according to a 16-year study by the American Association of Wine Economists finding 57% of the wines stronger than indicated on the label.

The average alcohol content was 13.6% when the average reported strength was 13.1% according to the biggest reported study of its kind undertaken in which the alcohol content of 129,000 wines from wineries across Europe as well as the New World. It was based on imports into Ontario, Canada, which tests the alcohol content of every incoming wine.

While the wines from Chile, Argentina and the US had the highest number of cases of under-declaration, all countries including France, Italy and Spain underplayed the alcoholic strength on an average, according to the report in the Guardian. Just under one third of the wines overstated their alcohol content and these were typically the weaker wines.

The authors of the report, titled ‘Splendide mendax: false label claims about high and rising alcohol content of wine’, said informal discussions with winemakers indicated that the under-declaration was to improve sales in an era of rising alcohol level in wine caused by increased temperatures, changing tastes and improved wine-making techniques.

The discussions however do indicate that the understatement was within the legal limits, according to the authors.  Julian Alston at the University of California who led the team writes, "Some winemakers have admitted they deliberately chose to understate the alcohol content on a wine label, within the range of error permitted by the law, because they believed that it would be advantageous for marketing the wine to do so."

There was also a tendency to overstate the alcohol content sometimes when the levels did not come up to the desired levels. "We observe systematic patterns in the errors: a tendency to overstate the alcohol content for wine that has relatively low actual alcohol content and a tendency to understate the alcohol content for wine that has relatively high alcohol content."

Wine makers are required to mention the alcohol levels in units of half a per cent but usually have a margin of half percent in their claims. Thus a wine with 15% alcohol may be stated as 14.5%. Ontario allows a higher tolerance of 1%.

"I think winemakers want to endow their wines with the sensory appeal associated with ripe flavours and concomitant high alcohol but know that many consumers are intellectually opposed to high alcohol levels," reported says Jancis Robinson MW, the leading British journalist and wine critic. "They know that lots of people first 'taste with their eyes', by checking the alcohol level printed on the label."

The concern about higher alcohol has been recent with the natural levels generally on the increase "Historically we haven't worried about alcohol levels in wine too much," said Jasper Morris MW at BBR. "It used to be all around 12% to 13%. But labeling is beginning to become more of an issue when you have wines at 14.5% and 15%. Like everybody else, I want the product to be the same as what it says on the label."

Admitting that the slightly lower levels might be due to marketing compulsions, Michael Cox, UK director of Wines of Chile reportedly admitted that ‘There is a trend towards lower alcohol wines and so to some extent there is a marketing angle," but denied there was a systematic approach to under-reporting alcohol content in Chilean wines and said there were some cases where consumers were attracted by higher strength.

Despite the claims of several vintners that the global warming has not affected the alcohol levels, a fact disputed by most consumers and critics alike, the analysis in this study confirms that the alcohol level in wines across the world has risen by almost 1% in recent years. Between 1992 and 2006, the average alcohol in a bottle of wine that passed through Ontario rose from 12.6% to 13.6%. In some cases alcohol levels have risen to even 2%. It may be safe to assume that the effect has been universal since the same wines are usually exported to other countries as well as for the domestic supplies.

American wine has typically 1% higher alcohol than their European counterparts while Australian wine has half a percentage point higher. But some of the prestigious French wines are also producing blockbusters now. Last week, Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion released a wine with 15% alcohol-14.5% is not uncommon in many of the Bordeaux wines.

The Report also records a few Tests on individual wines which present a mixed picture. Jon Bonné, the wine critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, ordered tests on 19 wines and found that 14 had understated alcohol levels, three of which were higher by 1%.

The Guardian this week commissioned analysis of its own on six bottles on sale in Majestic Wines in London from Australia, California, France and Italy. The tests were conducted using the EU standards and found that none breached EU regulations but in each case customers were getting less alcohol than they bargained for, not more.

The tests and study conducted indicate that though there is a tendency to intentionally ‘mis-declare’ alcohol content on wine bottles due to the marketing reasons, the wine producers cannot be blamed for fraudulent reporting and are within the legal norms. If the under-reporting has to be controlled or brought more under the microscope, the producing or the importing countries would have to develop more stringent laws in tolerances to check under-declaration.



Willi Says:

I would not blame necessarily the producer.... send the same wine to the same laboratory twice and probility is high that you are getting 2 different alcohol numbers. Kind regards Willi

Posted @ July 12, 2011 16:59


Want to Comment ?
Please enter your comments in the space provided below. If there is a problem, please write directly to Thank you.

Generate a new image

Type letters from the image:

Please note that it may take some time to get your comment published...Editor

Wine In India, Indian Wine, International Wine, Asian Wine Academy, Beer, Champagne, World Wine Academy, World Wine, World Wines, Retail, Hotel


Copyright©indianwineacademy, 2003-2020 |All Rights Reserved
Developed & Designed by Sadilak SoftNet