Many countries require labeling and reporting of alcohol levels in beverages, but the accuracy of these claims may be far from perfect, at least in the case of wines.
A 2011 paper by the American Association of Wine Economists, “Splendide Mendax: False Label Claims about High and Rising Alcohol Content of Wine” (PDF), analyzed data derived from nearly 130,000 wine samples imported to Canada from around the world over 16 years to examine the veracity of their alcohol content labeling. Because there has been speculation that increases in alcohol content might be attributable to climate change and rising temperatures in grape growing regions, the study’s authors look at temperature data, as well, and evaluate this hypothesis.
The study’s findings include:
The study’s authors conclude: “In many places the rise in alcohol content of wine is a nuisance consequence of choices made in response to evolving demand for wine having more intense, riper flavors. Specifically, label claims appear to be biased towards a perceived norm, a ‘desired’ alcohol percentage to report for a particular wine — red or white, New World or Old World — with the size of the bias depending on the extent to which the actual alcohol content differs from that norm. The implied values for these norms revealed by our analysis are approximately 12.8% alcohol (by volume) for Old World red, 12.3% alcohol for Old World white, 13.2% alcohol for New World red, and 12.7% alcohol for New World white.”
Tags: food, nutrition, obesity