The question "can wine get you drunk?" is not a new one. However, it's worth revisiting the answer because there's much more to this than just wine's alcohol content.
The truth is that yes, wine can make you drunk. But how it gets you there varies depending on your body and what type of wine you drink. Wine has a 12% - 15% ABV (the alcohol content) in most cases but also contains other things like sugars, and it can affect you differently than if you drank other alcohol-based drinks like beer or hard liquor.
If you are drinking wine or any alcoholic beverage for the first time, then keep in mind that different types can have different effects on people and again, this will vary according to the person's weight, height and metabolism rate.
Let's take a look at how wine can get you drunk—but also how to drink it responsibly.
Is being "wine drunk" different?
There is no evidence that having a glass of wine is different than the intoxication of any other alcoholic beverage. What matters most is the strength of the drink, which is measured by alcohol content.
However, other characteristics of the wine, such as tannins, sulfites, or sugar content can all affect how the drink makes you feel—and thus, how drunk you feel.
That intoxicated feeling and its intensity are related to several other factors too. Your gender, body size, and tolerance also determine how drunk you are and what symptoms you may develop.
How many glasses of wine will make you drunk?
There isn't a definitive or universal answer, but several factors play a large part in a drink's intoxicating effect:
- Alcohol tolerance
- Body size
- When you last ate
- How fast you drink
- The wine's alcohol content
For some people, a glass or two of wine can make them feel sleepy or relaxed. For other people, the same volume may make them giddy, or overly chatty.
Let's dive into some of the main factors that will help determine your personal wine intoxication limit.
Understanding your alcohol tolerance
Alcohol tolerance is essentially how much alcohol you are able to drink before suffering noticeable or negative effects on your body.
Each person has a different alcohol tolerance which varies based on the biochemistry of your body, your age, weight, metabolism rate and even race and gender.
Alcohol tolerance can also rise through repeated exposure to alcohol. For example, if this is your first drink then your tolerance is very low and it's going to take less to feel drunk (perhaps just a little over a glass of wine for example).
Drinking more wine consistently will result in increased tolerance, but this isn't recommended for health reasons.
Wine consumption as a function of time
The speed at which you drink your wine will influence how drunk you get, too. If you drink it quickly then by the time that first glass of wine is finished, your liver will not have enough time to process the alcohol.
As a general guide, liver metabolizes one standard drink of alcohol per hour. So one small glass of wine per hour is a reasonable safe limit.
In the United States, one "standard" drink contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:
- 12 ounces of regular beer, which is usually about 5% alcohol
- 5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12% alcohol
So, to get the same effects with beer you would have to consume over double the quantity within the same time period. For this reason, it's much easier to get drunk faster with wine than beer.
Your wine and its alcohol content
Wine has a moderate alcohol percentage compared to other alcoholic drinks. Beer is at the lower end of the scale, typically at 4% - 7% ABV and wine is just above that at 12% - 15% ABV. Liquors such as whiskey, gins and vodka contain a much higher concentration of alcohol.
Because grapes are now sweeter due to agricultural trends and warmer climates, the alcohol content in wine is actually trending upwards a little from what it has been historically.
If you want to moderate your levels of intoxication with wine, look for brands and styles with lower alcohol content. The taste of wine is not dependent on the amount of alcohol it contains, so you can still have great wine without risking getting too drunk.
Your gender and body size
Women usually are smaller in stature than men. A woman's lower body weight and proportioned smaller size, typically result in women feeling the effects of alcohol more.
However, a man of a lower weight can be affected just as easily, so it's still important to drink on an appropriate basis according to your size and tolerance.
If you are a man of small build, then you may find that a glass of wine is capable of getting you just as drunk as it would for a woman of similar size.
Your most recent meal
If your stomach contains nothing, then alcohol will be absorbed quickly. On the other hand, if you have food in your stomach then you'll be better able to control your levels of intoxication.
The fact that alcohol is absorbed more slowly when the stomach contains food, is the main reason why people shouldn't drink on an empty stomach.
Reasons to go easy on your wine consumption
Alcohol should be enjoyed, but never be consumed just to get drunk. Here are some reasons to make you think carefully before rushing that next glass of wine.
It'll make you want to order takeout
It's true that alcohol enhances mood, but it also impairs judgment. Getting drunk encourages binging by increasing the activities of the areas of the brain that regulate eating habits.
The munchies-causing effects of a bottle of wine can be quite strong, so you have to consider if the extra calories of those unhealthy snacks you may be tempted by are worth it in the long run.
You'll also be more likely to eat food that you wouldn't normally choose. Why not meal prep a healthy dinner for nights when you drink instead? That way you can enjoy a glass or two of wine and still keep your calorie count in check.
You may have a terrible night of sleep
While drinking does have sedating effects, it doesn't have the same refreshing effects as a good night's sleep.
While you may feel like you slept a lot, the quality of your rest will be impacted by drinking, leaving you tired and cranky in the morning.
If you already struggle with sleeping, drinking is not the answer: try a relaxing herbal tea before bed instead.
It'll have a lot of liquid calories and sugar
A five-ounce glass of chardonnay contains approximately 1.4 grams of sugar and 123 calories. A few of those can really add up. This is in addition to the cheese and crackers you can easily munch on while you consume them!
I'm not saying you should avoid wine completely; just know that it's important to be aware of how many hidden calories can be in your glass. Many people don't see wine as a major source of calories in their diet, but this is not always the case.
Tips to avoid a wine hangover
Step out for some fresh air
Drinking alcohol can cause a change in temperature in your body, a flushed face—and can lead to dehydration. This is one of the main causes of a hangover.
In addition you might find yourself too warm due to socializing in a small space, especially when everybody is drinking. This can be avoided by taking a break outside for some fresh air.
Avoid drinking on an empty stomach
Not eating or drinking any water is a surefire way for getting drunk quicker. Alcohol is always absorbed faster on an empty stomach, which can cause high levels of alcohol your body is unable to process.
Eating a nutritious meal with or before consuming alcohol gives your body the nutrients it needs to process the alcohol properly, and moderate your drinking to a safe level.
Stay hydrated with water
Not only is water good for preventing a hangover, it's good for your health in general. Drinking water should be a daily habit!
Alcohol is dehydrating, so it's important to drink water at the same time to make up for this. Try alternating alcoholic drinks with glasses of water to stay hydrated and sober.
Try to pace yourself
Instead of just finishing your wine as fast as possible, take a slower approach and enjoy each sip. If you struggle with pacing yourself, try using a smaller glass.
Also remember to drink water in between each glass of wine to keep your alcohol levels under control and avoid dehydration.
It's also important to pace your drinking sessions apart from each other. If you drink every night, why not try cutting back to once or twice a week? You'll feel better, and avoid that next-day hangover!