Alcohol content in red wine:  How strong is Chianti?

How does the alcohol content in Chianti compare to other wines? This is a question we often get on our Tuscany wine tours.

It’s a useful thing to know. Wine wouldn’t be the same without alcohol. Frankly, it would just be grape juice.

But what you should know is that wine alcohol percentages vary greatly. It can be anywhere from 5.5% to 23% alcohol by volume (ABV).

This means that not all glasses of wine pack the same punch.

Some Chianti wines are stronger than others as well. In general, Chianti ranks as “moderate” in terms of alcohol content.

How is the alcohol content of wine determined?

Several factors affect the alcohol content of wine. These include the type of wine, the variety of the grape and the climate where the grapes grow.

Grapes develop more sugar content as they grow on the vine. If they have more time to mature, the grapes will be sweeter. During the winemaking process, the yeast converts the sugar to alcohol. Cool climates like Germany or New York will usually produce wines with less alcohol because of the shorter growing season. Warmer regions, like Australia and California, make wines with higher alcohol content.

In Tuscany, the Sangiovese grapes used to make Chianti require a long growing season to become sweet. However, Chianti is a dry wine because the sugar is converted to alcohol during the fermentation process.

Alcohol levels in wine also affect the taste and texture. Higher alcohol wines tend to be more full-bodied with bolder flavors. Lower alcohol wines will be crisper and lighter to drink.

The bottom line on Chianti alcohol content

Italy has a lot of rules for winemaking to ensure the good quality. To obtain the highest classification of DOCG, Chianti wines must have minimum alcohol levels, as follows:

Wine: Min. Alcohol Level
Chianti 11.5%
Chianti Classico 12%
Chianti Classico Riserva 12.5%
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 13%

 

As you move up the scale, the Chianti wine types are aged longer and become more full-bodied and smoother. Likewise, they have higher content levels.

Remember that the chart indicates minimum alcohol content for Chianti wines. You will come across Chianti wines with higher alcohol levels. For example, the boutique winery Solatione makes a Chianti Classico with a 14% alcohol level and a Chianti Classico Riserva at 15%.

To be certain, it’s always a good idea to check the label on the wine bottle.  Better yet, join us for a Chianti wine tour and taste the difference for yourself.