Summer means sheer fabrics, shorter haircuts, and light beverages. When you don’t want anything weighing you down, a chilled, refreshing low-alcohol wine really hits the spot. Try out these 11 ABV wines that are perfect for summertime sipping.
Yes, in case you didn’t know, different kinds of wine have different levels of alcohol. Alcohol gives wine its weight and viscosity – which you can actually see when you swirl your glass. Higher ABV wines tend to have more noticeable legs.
Low-alcohol wines are usually lighter, sometimes fizzy, and sometimes sweet. When you’re in the mood for a glass of low-alcohol vino, you can always check the label to find a wine’s ABV. But it can save you some time when you know which varietals to keep an eye out for.
So, which low ABV wines should you put on your list? This guide is here to help.
What We Mean by “Low” ABV
The alcohol level in wine can vary drastically. Some wines are only 5% ABV, while others are a whopping 20%.
Wines on the low end of that range (under 10%) are often pretty sweet. If you’re a fan of sweet wine, be sure to check out Italian sparkling wines like Moscato d’Asti (5.5%) and Brachetto d’Acqui (6.5%).
If you like your vino in a dry style, you’ll probably want to zero in on wines on the low end of average, i.e., below 13.5%.
The worldwide average ABV for wine is between 11.5% – 13.5%. However, many popular wines made in the U.S. have more alcohol, usually between 13.5% – 15%. California Zinfandel or Australian Shiraz have around a 15% ABV. So, wines in that 11.5% – 13.5% range may be lower-alcohol than you’re used to.
Where does Alcohol in Wine Come From?
The short answer: a few different places.
Fermented grape juice is what makes wine. Fermentation converts the natural sugars in grapes into alcohol. If the winemaker stops the fermentation process short, the wine will still have some residual sugar – so, it’ll taste sweet – and it’ll have less alcohol.
Here’s where it gets a little complicated: Not all grapes start out with the same amount of sugar. The amount of sugar depends on the grapes and the climate they’re grown in.
Cool-climate vineyards – with less sunlight and more rain – tend to produce grapes with less sugar. Cool-climate regions like Oregon, Washington State, Bordeaux, Germany, and Austria, usually produce low-ABC wines.
The Best Low-ABV Varietals for Summer
Try these 11 low-ABV wines that are perfect for summer!
Italy’s signature red wine is made with Sangiovese grapes, and comes in between 11.5% – 13.5% ABV. Thanks to its high acidity, Chianti pairs well with a variety of foods, including tomato sauce.
2. Sauvignon Blanc
Also in the 11.5% – 13.5% range, Sauvignon blanc – particularly from New Zealand – is known for its “green” streak, which makes it an excellent pairing for salads and dishes seasoned with herbs.
Although you may not have heard of it, Zweigelt (pronounced zwhy-GELT) is a popular red wine in Austria. Light and zingy, Zweigelt has 11.5% – 13.5% ABV, and pairs well with a wide range of foods, from barbecue to macaroni salad.
Txakoli (pronounced cha-COLE-ee) is popular in Spain’s Basque country. This light wine white with zippy acidity and notes of lime, underripe strawberry, and saline has less than 11.5% ABV, and sometimes under 10% – even though it’s bone dry.
Another light and zingy wine from coastal Spain, Albariño typically has between 11.5% – 13.5% ABV. This dry white wine pairs well with fresh ceviche, oysters, or fish tacos.
There are different types of grapes that make rosé. However, this light and crunchy pink wine tends to fall between 10% – 12% ABV. It’s a great match for chicken, tuna steaks, and veggie skewers.
8. Pinot Noir
This cool-climate red wine usually comes in between 11.5% – 13.5% ABV. Although Pinot Noir is, in general, considered to be a light- to medium-bodied red wine, varieties from Oregon and France tend to be on the lighter side, compared to California Pinot Noir. With fruity aromas of cherry and earthy notes, Pinot Noir pairs well with chicken, tofu, and portobello mushrooms.
9. Pinot Grigio
This dry Italian white wine comes in at about 11.5% – 13.5% ABV. With light fruity flavors of lemon zest and peach, Pinot Grigio pairs well with fresh seafood and light summer pastas.
This medium-bodied red wine comes from Piedmont in Italy, and although Dolcetto translates to “little sweet one,” Dolcetto wine is dry and sometimes even tastes tart. Dolcetto is in the 11.5% – 13.5% ABV range, and pairs well with rich proteins and roasted veggies like tomatoes and eggplant.
German Riesling made in a sweeter style – look for Kabinett or Spätlese on the label – are only around 8% ABV. Riesling made in Washington state is typically drier, and comes in at about 11%. This off-dry aromatic white wine goes with a range of spicy foods, like hot wings and Chinese takeout.
In Vino Finito
Keep your summer light and breezy by choosing a low-alcohol wine. Whether you prefer white, red, or rosé, you’ve got options.
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