Ideal ABV

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Oct 15, 2009
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Hey everyone,
I am still learning a lot about wine making and have a question. Is there an ideal ABV to shoot for? I am noticing that most wines I purchase are in the single digits but the last batch that I just put in the secondary is about 13.5% at this point. Will that much alcohol keep it from developing a smooth flavor? Is there an ideal abv to shoot for?
the answer is no......its all about taste and what a particular wine can handle...for instance you would not want a thin flavored wine w say a high alc would overpower it....a bolder wine could handle more

and even then..someone out there would say.....well i like a bold wine w low alc....another would say, i like a thin wine w higher alc......its your taste and palate that decide what you prefer
what wines are you purchasing that are in the single digits? i think that might be an exception rather than a rule. from personal experience, most commercial wines i've seen are between 11%-14% with light whites on the lower end and big reds on the higher.

since much of wine is about balance, balancing acidity with sweetness, astringency with body, etc. the target ABV shoudl be considered in the context of the other wine elements - is it a fruity, light white wine or a big, complex red wine? does it have pronounced astringency? bitterness? tartness? sweetness? most medium to full body reds seem to to well in the 13.5% range... 14% can sometimes seem too hot, but other times seem okay when something else is balancing that alcohol.
Agreed with above statements.

You should look at the style of the wine you are making.

My summer sippers like white apple-peach, elderflower, strawberry, dandelion etc never go above 11%.
However my winter wines like elderberry have a lot more alcohol. A heavy wine like that can take up to 15%.

Remember that alcohol aids in the overall wine-experience but is not a goal in itself.

Thanks everyone, all that was said definitely helps.

Is it smarter to start all wines with enough sugar to completely ferment out and then sweeten later if wanted or start with enough excess sugar to stay sweet after fermentation? Is that a personal preference thing?

I am trying to learn how to make good use of my hydrometer. Thanks for your input!
most grape wines have little or no residual sugar. if your preference is for a sweet or slightly sweet wine, fermenting to dry and then backsweetening after stabilizing is the preferred method and provides the best and most repeatable results.

by fermenting to dry you have control of the final ABV because you know when fermentation will stop, you also have control over exactly how sweet it will be after additions because you are making precise adjustments.

since yeast is a living thing, it is much more difficult to try and count on stopping fermentation at just the right point where your alcohol level is as desired and your sweetness level is to your liking. i would go so far as to say that this method would be near impossible or attainable only by sheer luck.

backsweetening is so much easier as there are fewer variables to deal with - fermentation is complete so that variable is eliminated, you can even age the wine a little first, then, before bottling, prepare a half dozen samples and sweeten each in increasing amounts and taste, identify the one which meets your palate and do the math to convert the sugar you added to the sample into how much you add to the full batch.

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