Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

ethanol, common name for ethyl alcohol, the most potable of the alcohols and an important, intoxicating constituent of wine and all other alcoholic drinks. Ethanol, often called simply ‘alcohol’, is colourless and odourless but can have considerable impact on how a liquid tastes.

Ethanol is the most potent component of wine (and the most obvious of those that distinguish it from grape juice), but it is probably the least discussed by wine consumers (unless in the context of hangovers). For although ethanol does not have a taste, it has an effect, not just on the human nervous system, but on how a wine tastes. The ethanol content in a perfectly balanced wine should be unfathomable, but wines that are slightly too high in alcohol can have a hot aftertaste.