There are a lot of ways to describe the amount of booze in different beverages. You might say a whiskey is 80 proof, a beer is an imperial IPA, and a Long Island is two-day hangover waiting to happen. But when it comes to wine, things are more straightforward. On the front or back label, you’ll see a number followed by a % and the letters ABV, or alcohol by volume. This is simply the amount of ethanol in your wine, as a percentage of the total liquid. So if the label says 14% ABV, then just 14% of what’s in your glass is responsible for 100% of your enthusiasm for late-night karaoke.

Monitoring tipsiness aside, understanding ABV is important because it’s the biggest factor determining whether your wine is light, medium, or full-bodied. Most wines you’ll come across at stores or restaurants will be between 8-15% ABV. While sugar can be an offsetting factor in some low-ABV sweet wines, you can generally assume that lower alcohol wines will feel more watery in your mouth, and higher alcohol will make the wine seem heavier and thicker. You want a wine that’s rich enough to stand up to a porterhouse? Feel free to skip over anything below 13% ABV. Or you want something that won’t overpower oysters? Go with Muscadet, which by law can’t exceed 12% ABV.

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