How Wine Labels Lie About Alcohol
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.