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Leading article: Less veritas in the vino

An American study has established what many of today's wine drinkers might have concluded themselves – if, that is, they had been in any condition to reflect on it. As wine-makers have sought to please the market for stronger and more intense tastes, so the alcohol content has increased to the point where 15 and 16 per cent wines are not unusual, especially in wines from the New World.

There was a time when a high alcohol content might have been, for some drinkers, a recommendation. But with advances in health-consciousness and alcohol a growing problem, at least in Britain – a record 1 million people were treated in hospital last year for alcohol-related complaints – a wine with an above-average alcohol content could be regarded as a liability by those trying to keep their consumption within safe limits.

But, it seems, the producers and marketers reached that conclusion before they did. The study found that labels generally understate the alcohol content of the wine in the bottle, by an average of almost 0.5 per cent in the case of wines from the Americas and Australia – and that this is not done "unconsciously". While the advice is mentally to "top up" the claim on the label, it's worth asking what became of the fashion for lighter styles so confidently forecast a couple of years ago.