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The Older the Grapes, the Sweeter the Wine

photo of gina trippi

By Gina Trippi

Low alcohol wines are becoming scarce. What’s up? The temperature! Scorching heat waves and other climate-driven calamities have ruined harvests in Europe, North America, Australia and elsewhere.

Parts of Bordeaux are burning, Chile continues to battle devastating wine country fires and it seems California fights fires in vineyards on a daily basis.

Red wines produced in Bordeaux, Tuscany, Piedmont and California had higher alcohol between 2010 and 2019 than registered in the 1990s. Climate change is the catalyst. Winemakers are trying to harness the alcohol through the timing of the harvest.

wine grapes hanging on the vine

The longer the grapes hang on the vines, the more intense the sugar and, hence, the alcohol level. In other words, the older the grapes, the sweeter the wine. But, winemakers explain, you cannot control the alcohol by simply picking grapes earlier. For example, if you harvest cabernet sauvignon grapes early to achieve a lower alcohol content, you risk producing a tart wine with heavier vegetal flavors such as green pepper.

ABV or ALC, indicates alcohol by volume. The amount of alcohol in a container is shown as a percentage of the overall volume of the drink. And don’t think you can lower the ABV by aging the bottle!

ABV is not affected by age as the sugars have already converted to alcohol. But the taste of the alcohol may become smoother and more understated giving the impression that the volume has been reduced. The percentage of alcohol in a wine bottle is posted on the label, usually marked ALC.

Wines with higher alcohol levels are rounder and richer in texture offering deeper and more concentrated flavors and often seem sweeter to the palate. Some wineries aim for this style as these higher alcohol wines tend to score higher points from the critics.

That said, many wineries, particularly mass produced nationwide brands actually aim for this style! But if this is not the style you want, we can help!

Metro Wines has assembled a list of low alcohol wines and can direct you to bottles from around the world to meet your menu or event.

Alois Lageder Schiava is 11.5% alcohol. This bottle, due to its versatility and popularity, has been a Thanksgiving tradition at Metro Wines. Schiava is a grape variety native to Trentino-Alto Adige, in northern Italy.

Historically known for producing light-bodied and lighter-colored wines, the grape is light and tart with aromas of strawberry, raspberry, rose, lemon and smoke and boasts a spicy black pepper backbone that helps it pair nicely with heavier and spicier foods, even Thai Chili Basil!

Also from Alois Lageder is an organic Pinot Grigio at 12% alcohol. Brilliant straw yellow with a green shimmer in the glass. The nose has pronounced and expressive aromas with flowery and somewhat spicy notes.

And the palate presents rich flavors with a slight smokiness and a strong, fresh finish.

An all around good choice for summer, low alcohol

wines have a lower calorie count and tend to pair better with food!

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Metro Wines Asheville

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828-575-9525 |


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