Why strength matters when you buy wine

The alcohol strength might not be your first consideration when you buy wine - many of us shop first by region or grape, and use strength just as a deciding factor between two bottles that are otherwise equally matched.

But actually, the strength could make a big difference, particularly if you buy wine at several different strengths to enjoy over the course of an evening, perhaps with different courses of a meal.

Research conducted at the University of California, and published in Wine & Viticulture Journal this month, shows how the order in which you drink different strength wines can affect their taste.

Cabernet sauvignon wines ranging from 12% abv to 16% abv were split into high-alcohol and low-alcohol groups - defined as being above or below 14%.

They were given to participants either in random order, or in low-to-high or high-to-low order, and participants made tasting notes.

According to the authors, "alcohol concentration significantly influenced sensory perception, particularly on the palate".

"The largest differences occurred when low-alcohol wines were tasted first, with substantial changes in the sensory profiles of high-alcohol wines," they add.

For consumers, this suggests that if you buy wines at different strengths, you are less likely to notice the difference if you consume the high-alcohol bottle first, whereas drinking the low-alcohol variety first could enhance the distinction between the two even further.