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Dr. Vino's Verdict

How Wine Labels Lie About Alcohol

© Dale Anderson

Ever wondered where the experts stand on the best wine practices and controversies? In this series, wine blogger, teacher and author Tyler Colman (a. k. a. Dr. Vino) delivers a final judgement.

Don’t you think the percentage of alcohol on a wine’s label should accurately reflect what’s in the bottle? Often it doesn’t. The government's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau separates most wine into two tax brackets by alcohol level: 11 to 14 percent, and 14 percent-plus. Within those brackets, producers have wiggle room between what the label says and what’s really the case, up to 1.5 percent in the lower bracket and up to 1 percent in the upper. So a wine labeled 12.5 percent alcohol could really be 14 percent, and a wine labeled 14.9 might actually be 15.9. And a UC Davis study of more than 100,000 bottles of wine found that producers overall understate alcohol levels by 0.3 percentage points.

Related: More from Dr. Vino
5 Great Wines for $12 or Less
An Anti-Snob Wine Dinner in Sonoma

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