You just drank a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot and you feel more tipsy than when you drink a glass of Chardonnay? Well, that is normal, because usually red wines are stronger than white wines. The alcohol content of red wines is generally higher, but that actually varies from wine to wine.
Why is that? Well, alcohol content is directly linked to the ripeness of grapes. Ripeness refers to the grape’s sugar content. When the grapes ferment, the sugar inside is transformed by bacteria into alcohol. This is called the fermentation process and takes some days. Since riper grapes are picked to make red wines, usually later in the season, there is more sugar inside the grapes: more sugar, more alcohol. This also depends on how the wine is made, as there is a wide variety of methods.
But, generally speaking, red wine alcohol content ranges from 11.5% to 17% (alcohol by volume). You can check the number on bottle label. It’s mandatory by law to be measured and recorded.
For white wines, the alcohol content generally ranges from 7.5% to 15%. If alcohol content is ever a concern, choose a white wine: it’s less likely to be too strong, and you will get drunk less easily.
But, one thing that has to be said. Red wines are usually fermented dry — they are depleted of their sugar content. White wines, however, still retain some residual sugar. They are, in fact, inherently sweeter. The sugar, in fact, is what speeds the effects of alcohol in your system!
So, in summation… Yes, red wines are usually stronger; you might get drunk faster drinking red than drinking white wines.
But if the white wine is too sweet, the sugar inside might actually get you drunk faster than the red!
Anyway… Santé, cheers!