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Vino with bigger buzz has a price

Wines with high alcohol (13 percent or higher) content have become increasingly popular in the past decade.

Their popularity, in part, is due to the high scores the wines receive from critics. Many times wines being reviewed are among hundreds tasted blindly. Of course when the powerhouse high alcohol wines hit the fatigued palate of a taster they generally will stand out in the sea of bottles.

Naturally, with these great accolades from reviews many wineries kept in step with the trend and continued producing higher alcohol vintages. By letting grapes stay on the vine longer, the sugar content is higher. It’s the sugar, which converts to alcohol during fermentation, that is responsible for the higher alcohol percentage.

These high-alcohol wines are frequently included on restaurant wine lists. While a 3 percent increase in alcohol content may not seem like a large difference, your blood alcohol level and your taste buds will surely react. High-alcohol wine can overpower the flavors of food and accentuate the spiciness of bold foods.

And as for what it does to your brain, many studies are technical in their description. My favorite is by writer and retired physician William “Rusty” Gaffney.

He took a Breathalyzer test after drinking low- and high-alcohol wines. The 5-foot-9-inch, 178-pound Gaffney found that after two glasses of 12 1/2 percent alcohol wine on an empty stomach in one hour, his blood alcohol was 0.05. After two glasses of 15 percent wine, he was over the legal driving limit of 0.08 after an hour.

So, you may want to forgo the food clash and alcohol content by considering these lower alcohol wines for your lunchtime menu.


  • 2009 Whitehall Lane Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $16 retail)
  • 2010 Broadbent Vinho Verde, Portugal (about $10 retail)
  • 2010 Conte Stella Rosa Imperiale Moscato, Italy (about $19 retail)
  • 2010 Helfrich Pinot Gris Vin d’Alsace, France (about $18 retail)


  • 2010 Pascal Jolivet “Attitude” Sauvignon Blanc, France (about $22 retail)
  • 2009 Oriel Or tolan Falkenstein Gruner Veltliner, Austria (about $25 retail)
  • NV Roederer Sparkling Wine, California (about $35 retail)