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13% en primeur, 14.5% in bottle

I have alway bought a half case of Ogier’s La Rosine en primeur. The brochure says it is 13% alcohol.
Yesterday I opened a bottle of tho 2018 and thought it was very alcoholic - nothing like the almost Cote-Rotie it is sold as in the en primeur offer literature.
The bottle says 14.5%.
How is this possible?
Has the producer tricked TWS? Or has the buyer been naive?
The wine tastes like a southern Rhone, CdR villages in a hot vintage. But at around £16 per bottle some 50% more expensive than such a wine.
I have never previously checked on an abv level difference between offer and bottle. From now on I will always do so.
Caveat emptor.

That’s a significant difference. I think the Bordeaux EP offer has got a disclaimer about ABVs being just an estimate while in barrel, but can’t remember if the Rhone one does.

Even so, if you’re not happy with it then ask TWS to take it back - you’d be perfectly within your rights to do so, even without this disparity between the offer and the bottle.

There is definitely a disclaimer in the Rhone EP literature about ABVs being an estimate.

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The Domaine Jean Chauvenet Nuits St Georges from 2018 is listed in the brochure at 13% but in my reserves it is listed at 15%.
Could be fun :laughing:


Perhaps it’s something to do with water 'evaporating * ’ from the cask, at a greater rate than alcohol? - so the wine gets ‘stronger’. I’m sure I read this happens with whisky in cask when ageing. Hopefully an industrial chemist member can shed some light.

  • Not ‘evaporating’ exactly but serves as a crude analogy … depends on the porosity of the oak cask, the ability of C2H6O (large molecule) & H20 (small molecule) to transit these pores & the cask’s environment ?

There are many variables, so not surprising that the producer cannot predict the outcome - nobody is being hoodwinked, it’s just one of the joys of buying a natural product. On the plus side, your wine will be more concentrated & complex.

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This subject has long fascinated me as sometimes the alcohol level falls and sometimes it rises. I tend to ask this question at most cellar visits and this includes ones to whisky and cognac and suchlike cellars as well as wine. Not only is it the porosity of the vessel, apparently, but the ambient humidity, which has an effect on the tendency for water to evaporate to a greater or lesser degree than the alcohol. But EtOH is more volatile than H2O and would evaporate more readily given other variables allowing it to do so.

This is not meant to be a scientific treatise but just commenting that it ain’t as simple as it might first seem… !


Odd fact: Kentucky bourbon gets stronger in the cask, because the water evaporates faster than the alcohol, but scotch whisky loses alcohol because it is the other way round


I had the same situation with a white, Chave St Jo blanc Circa 2017. I had loved previous vintages (what better than good white rhone with crab on toast!) and got a sixpack EP. I was rather shocked to discover 14.5% on delivery.

I shared one bottles with friends at a Hawksmoor dinner and it went down OK, but I opened one at home and was a bit more analytical. Note below, didn’t share the note at the time as it seemed a bit grumpy. Honestly though, I would not have bought if I had realised it was 14.5%!

“ First day this all seems a bit disjointed - waxy to the point of flabiness, peach and honeysuckle, but then a really rasping dry extract and hot finish.

Second day much more resolved and enjoyable, apples and peaches still but a marzipan replaces the rasping dry extract of yesterday. This is served fridge cold, but the alcohol still pokes out. Is there really any chance of balance in a 14.5% abv white?”


Apparently it’s to do with the warehouses where the casks are matured ? or so I believe,

Kentucky use big steel skinned warehouses with barrels stacked 7 high, considerable change between winter & summer temp/ humidity… so the barrels ‘breath’ deeply in and out. Ideal for fast maturation of the spirit.

Scotland (well traditionally at least) use low warehouses, ideally by the sea to reduce temp & humidity variation between summer & winter… the casks breathe more shallowly. Ideal for slower maturation, and less loss to the angels.

Leastways, that’s my understanding. However the devil is in the detail and nothing is clear cut.

Cognac (I visited many years ago) transfer their very old spirit from cask to big glass vessels, I presume to halt the evaporation? otherwise there would be nothing left after 40+ years


Despite protests from the buying team, Marketing wanted to put %cohol contents on en primeur wines. The wines have often not been analysed. They are always estimates. Sometimes it is based on the previous years alcohols. So if a warm year follows a cold year alcohols levels will be way out. We can be tasting 6-12 months before the wines are bottled.


I had not gone back and checked but now note the Mont Redon Lirac 2019 was down as 14.5% but came in at 15%. Unaware of this my own tasting notes on drinking first of 12 was there was a touch of heat and that lead me to check the bottle and see the 15%.

In general I enjoyed the wine and being honest I have been more swayed by Marcel’s notes and general community track record of any given wine. With the more warmer vintages the winemakers skill is becoming more important. I am curious to see how it evolves. Currently the large fruit flavours do a lot to counter it but buying 12 EP and seeing the evolution is hopefully part of the fun.

On a few of my other notes I see I have seen some improvement over longer decant time. Who knows there may be something in this years 2021 Bordeaux classic alcohol levels😉.

As alcohol evaporates at 78 Centigrade it’s obviously not reducing from being opened but as we all know wine is a complex thing.

Actually, the ethanol does evaporate at room temperature, as does the water and all of the other volatile components. At 1 atmosphere pressure, pure ethanol boils at 78C, which is to say it is entirely vapour; at temperatures lower than that and above -114C which is its melting point, it forms an equilibrium between liquid and vapour, which shifts towards more vapour and less liquid as the temperature increases.

Water does the same thing, but at room temperature ethanol is more volatile than water, which means that, in fact, more ethanol will evaporate, and the ABV will decrease.


Having said all of which, I don’t think it’s going to change that much in the timeframes we’re talking about here. But it does pay to be accurate in terminology :slight_smile:


Very helpful, thank you.

I had seen the disclaimer on EP offers but assumed the EP ABV figure was based on cask samples.

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