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Abstract

Many economists and others are interested in the phenomenon of rising alcohol content of wine and its potential causes. Has the alcohol content of wine risen—and if so, by how much, where, and when? What roles have been played by climate change and other environmental factors compared with evolving consumer preferences and expert ratings? In this paper we explore these questions using international evidence, combining time-series data on the alcohol content of wine from a large number of countries that experienced different patterns of climate change and influences of policy and demand shifts. We also examine the relationship between the actual alcohol content of wine and the alcohol content stated on the label. The systematic patterns here suggest that rising alcohol content of wine may be a nuisance by-product of producer responses to perceived market preferences for wines having riper, more-intense flavors, possibly in conjunction with evolving climate.

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