Food & Travel

Feb 17, 2014

Putting water into wine (and why that cheeky red is boozier than you think)

The rising heat is roasting our reds and pushing the alcohol content higher. So is adding water to wine -- currently banned -- the answer? Wine writer Philip White makes the case at In Daily.

Have you ever wondered why all the red wine in Australia is 14.5% alcohol? Don’t. Because it’s not. It just says that on the labels.

In reality, many wines claiming that 14.5 figure are actually 16%. In making their alcohol claims, Australian winemakers are permitted an error margin of 1.5% either side of the number they nominate. So when you see red admitting to 16%, it could actually be 17.5%.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

12 thoughts on “Putting water into wine (and why that cheeky red is boozier than you think)

  1. paddy

    Dear Crikey, for this fascinating article on wine…I’ll *almost* forgive today’s lack of Firstdog.
    More please.

  2. Venise Alstergren

    It’s not just red wine either. My favourite tipple-Chardonnay-is becoming fourteen plus percent. So much so that I’ve taken to adding fifty to a hundred percent of mineral water to get it down. I refuse to give up without a fight.

  3. Paracleet

    I was under the impression you couldn’t get wine much over 14% alcohol without the use of special yeasts (I.E. Sugar is not the limiting factor). I’m also not sure the plus or minus value applies equally at the ends of the spectrum. I.E a wine at 11% may be +/- 1.5% but not one at 10% or 14.5%
    16% is either fortified or made using yeasts used in the production of fortified wine.

    Note: I could wrong

  4. zut alors

    Perhaps the consumer could circumvent the politics and practicalities of winemaking legislation by adding the water themselves.

    I recall, at lunch on a hot day, seeing an ice block added to a glass of red. Someone please pass Philip White the smelling salts.

  5. AR

    re my current favourite “highly alcoholic jam” – marquis Philips eagle headed roo 77 Grenache, how can I be sure that the plus/minus accuracy doesn’t go tuther way?
    Has anyone noticed that it is rare to see the alcohol content of the pics of wine bottles in the full page ads, almost as if photoshopped out for the wowser brigade coz they are there on the bottle in the shop in the usual position in the bottom corner.
    Perhaps someone learned what happened in the olde Dart in the 80s when the supamart started selling hi-hit lagers and legislation was passed to ensure the alcohol content was clearly marked. It just ensured that real sots & toppers knew which to spend their pennies on, such as the drunk character in VIZ (forgotten his name) who could always be relied upon to be shitfaced half way through the strip.

  6. Simon Hoyle

    Sorry to be a pendant, but when Mr White says “Australian winemakers are permitted an error margin of 1.5% either side of the number they nominate”, does he mean 1.5 per cent or 1.5 percentage points? It’s an important distinction. A 1.5 percentage point margin of error would indeed lead to the range he suggests; but a 1.5 per cent margin of error would mean a wine claiming to be 14.5 per cent could be as much as 14.72 per cent, or as little as 14.28 per cent.

  7. AR

    oops, too far into my M-P already, the comment above was not meant to be BOLD.

  8. AR

    Where would we be without WIKI –
    Eight Ace – an alcoholic who drinks “Ace” beer (eight cans for £1.49) and struggles to stay on the right side of his wife and many children as a consequence. Many of the strips involve Ace being entrusted with or somehow managing to acquire exactly £1.49 which he inevitably uses to buy “Eight Ace”. His real name has been mentioned as ‘Octavius Federidge Tinsworthy Ace’, the ‘Federidge’ in his name being derived from the now-defunct Federation Brewery which brewed ‘Ace’ lager.

  9. Decca

    @Simon Hoyle. 1.5% in points. i.e. Listed 14.5 could possibly be actual 16.0.

  10. michael r james

    Paracleet at 4:52 pm

    Barrel fermented and aged wines end up concentrating the alcohol beyond what the yeast manage, by evaporation. (Well that is what the winemakers say. I am a little surprised because I might have expected the more volatile alcohol would have evaporated off at a higher rate than the water. Apparently not.)

    You’re thinking of champagne which does it in the bottle (and “artificially” by adding extra sugar to get a secondary fermentation).

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details