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1. How much do you have to drink to get drunk off wine?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, you have to drink five or more “drinks” over a two-hour period for your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to rise to 0.08% or higher. A blood alcohol rate of .08% or higher is the legal limit for driving in most states.1
Note that a “standard drink” contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol. This is found in:
12 ounces of regular beer (which is usually about 5% alcohol),
5 ounces of wine (which is typically about 12% alcohol), or
1.5 ounces of hard liquor (which is about 40% alcohol).2
With that all said, however, the rate at which everyone gets drunk varies significantly because of several different factors. Some of these factors are:
diet – you will likely feel the effects of alcohol more quickly if you drink on an empty stomach.
amount of wine – you will likely get drunker quicker if you drink a large amount of alcohol over a short period of time.
gender – women tend to have higher alcohol metabolism rates than men.
absorption of alcohol rates – you will likely feel the effects of alcohol if your body absorbs it at a quick rate.
body size/body mass – your alcohol levels will generally increase as your body mass decreases.
alcohol tolerance – some people have a high alcohol tolerance, and they will feel impairment slower than people with a low tolerance.3
2. Does ABV matter?
Most often, yes. Different wines will often have different ABVs (or Alcohol by Volumes). The higher a bottle of wine’s ABV, the higher the amount of alcohol it contains.
So, if an average person is drinking a type of wine with a high ABV, the person could expect to feel the adverse effects of the wine quicker than a person who drinks the same amount of wine with a low ABV.
In general, wines will have an ABV of between 12-15%. In comparison, most beers have lower ABVs at between 4-6%.
3. Does it matter if you are drinking red wine or white wine?
It can. In general, red wines (like a Malbec) have a higher alcohol content than white wines (like a Pinot Grigio).4
A result is that you may feel the effects of wine more quickly if you are drinking red wine rather than white one. This is true provided that your alcohol consumption is the same for both types of wine.
4. Are there tips to follow to avoid getting drunk on wine?
Yes. There are a few general rules that you can follow to help avoid drinking an amount of wine that could lead to a DUI.
Some of these tips include:
be aware of the size of your wine glass – larger glasses will hold more wine, which can translate into drinking alcohol in larger quantities.
watch your water content – try to consume a glass of water between glasses of wine. The water will slow your overall rate of wine consumption.
drink low-alcohol wines – opt for wines with a low ABV.
have something to eat – drinking wine on an empty stomach will generally lead to higher BAC rates.
Note that if you feel yourself getting drunk because of too much wine, there is generally nothing you can do (for example, drinking coffee) to increase your body’s metabolism of alcohol.
The passage of time is essentially all you can rely on to help your body lower its alcohol levels.
Lapham SC. The limits of tolerance: convicted alcohol-impaired drivers share experiences driving under the influence. Perm J. 2010 Summer;14(2):26-30. doi: 10.7812/TPP/09-145. PMID: 20740113; PMCID: PMC2912088.
See Stanford University website, “What is BAC?” This web page lists a few other factors that may affect a person’s BAC, including longer periods of time for which drinks are consumed, enzyme production, and drug interactions involving medical conditions.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.