Creating Alcohol in Wine

Here, Ray Isle tells all about wine's active ingredient.
FoodandWine Recipe

The Process Explained

In wine production, yeasts convert the natural sugar in grapes to carbon dioxide (a gas that blows off) and alcohol. Thus, the amount of alcohol in a wine usually depends on how much sugar is in the grapes when they’re harvested—in short, how ripe they are. But underripe grapes may produce vegetal flavors or harsh levels of acidity in wines, and overripe grapes can result in cooked, raisiny flavors and a flabby texture. The grape grower’s and winemaker’s art (or skill) is in finding the ideal midpoint—something dependent on the grape variety, region, winemaking style and a host of other factors.

How Much is Too Much?

How many glasses of wine does it take to become legally impaired? It depends on how much alcohol is in the wine (but the right amount to drink before driving is zero).

6 oz glass = 8% alcohol

140 lb female
180 lb male

6 oz glass = 12% alcohol

140 lb female
180 lb male

6 oz glass = 16% alcohol

140 lb female
180 lb male

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PUBLISHED August 2009

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