The Guardian reports that a study of alcohol levels in 129,000 wines from vineyards across the globe over a 16-year period has “suggested that many vintners have been ‘systematically’ understating their wines’ strength on labels.” Which means that despite that wine label telling you that your third glass of pinot noir won’t go straight to your head, it probably will do just that.
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The study, conducted by the American Association of Wine Economists, found that more than half of wines tested had a stronger alcohol content than the number marked on the label. While the average labeled alcohol level of the wines was 13.1%, the average measured alcohol level was 13.6%. Which, to some, could be the difference between “Sure, I’ll have another glass,” and “No, I’d better not.” Now would be the time where you start blaming every hangover in recent memory on someone other than yourself.
Although the discrepancy is legal in most countries, don’t think that these wine makers slapped false labels on their reds and whites by mistake. “Some winemakers … have admitted they deliberately chose to understate the alcohol content on a wine label, within the range of error permitted by the law, because they believed that it would be advantageous for marketing the wine to do so,” according to the report, written by researchers at the University of California.
Now some might think that consumers who are after wine in the first place wouldn’t be turned away by few a measly percentage points of alcohol. In fact, some might even argue that a higher alcohol content could be a draw on its own. Not so, according to Jancis Robinson, who told the Guardian that “winemakers want to endow their wines with the sensory appeal associated with ripe flavours and concomitant high alcohol but know that many consumers are intellectually opposed to high alcohol levels.”
That actually makes a lot of sense: people want to drink strong alcohol, they just don’t want to admit that they do. Well played, vintners. Well played. (via Guardian)
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Megan Gibson is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @MeganJGibson. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.