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Alcohol and Health

What Does It Mean To Be Wine Drunk?

February 21, 2024
20 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
February 21, 2024
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
February 21, 2024
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
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Revealing the Truth Behind “Wine Drunk”

  • Wondering if drinking wine really does make you feel different? The feeling of “wine drunk” may not be as real as you may have heard.
  • Science says alcohol is just alcohol. Learn more about why people may feel “wine drunk” to help you navigate your next night out.
  • Reframe features neuroscience-backed readings that debunk drinking myths to help you make more informed decisions around alcohol.

Most of us know at least one wine aficionado. Avid wine fanatics commonly use the term “wine drunk” and swear by the unique drunk feeling they claim wine brings. Feeling left out and wondering if the wine bottle bliss is as good as some people say? Let’s break down what wine drunk means and help you determine if it’s fact or fiction. 

From tipsy to wasted, there are many levels of intoxication. Wine is commonly tied to feeling fancy and sophisticated, but the unpleasant aftermath of too many glasses may leave us feeling otherwise. Learning more about drunkenness and the factors that influence intoxication can help guide us on our journey to more mindful drinking. Let’s uncork the science behind the phenomenon of “wine drunk” and shed some light on whether or not wine is as great as some grape nuts claim.

Can You Get Drunk Off Wine?

A person covering her eyes with hands  and there is wine bottle and glass on a table in  front of her

A bottle of vino is a typical pairing with special occasions and a range of culinary delights, and wine seems to be offered as an accompaniment wherever you go. With rave reviews from the wine divas in our life, we may be left wondering if wine can leave us feeling as pleasant as some say. 

Although wine is made from grapes, its health properties and effects stray far from its source. (It’s like eating your 5 servings of veggies in french fries — that’s not really what your doctor meant.) Wine is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting grapes, and in some cases, other fruits. Through the fermentation process, the sugars in grape juice are transformed into ethanol, the main component of alcohol. 

Like other types of alcohol, wine affects our brain and other bodily systems to make us feel drunk. Wine typically has a lower alcohol content than spirits, making it difficult for first-time wine drinkers to determine their limits. How much wine is needed to get drunk is fairly individualized, but learning how wine causes intoxication and the factors that influence it can help us avoid negative drinking experiences and keep us in control.

How Does Wine Get You Drunk?

From the moment alcohol touches our lips, it travels through the bloodstream and passes through the blood-brain barrier — targeting the brain. This explains how alcohol can hijack our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions. 

Unlike other food and drink, alcohol passes through our bloodstream and affects other systems in our bodies. Our livers are the main organ that metabolizes alcohol and filters out toxins. But before it reaches our liver to be processed and metabolized, alcohol travels through different bodily systems, including our lungs and kidneys, adding to the effects of intoxication. 

When alcohol enters our brain, it attaches to our gamma-aminobutyric Acid (GABA) receptors. GABA is a neurotransmitter that slows brain processes. When neurotransmitters connect with their receptors, they trigger electrical signals that send messages to our brain and other areas of our body. Because the GABA receptors are blocked by alcohol, our brain’s messages take longer to be recognized. This messaging slowdown effectively causes the symptoms of being drunk.

What Does It Feel Like To Be Drunk?

Before getting into the specific experiences that “wine drunk” claims to bring, let’s take a look at the general symptoms of intoxication and the different stages of being drunk.

Being intoxicated is commonly associated with:

  • Lack of balance and coordination 
  • Slower processing and reflexes 
  • Poor judgment and inhibition
  • Emotion changes 
  • Drowsiness 
  • Facial flushing and/or bloodshot eyes

There are also varying levels of drunkness. Knowing more about the different stages and the symptoms that accompany them can help us set limits and reduce the severity of an unpleasant aftermath. 

7 Stages of Intoxication

According to K.M. Dubowski, a leading expert on the medical aspects of alcohol use in the U.S., there are 7 main stages of alcohol intoxication.

  1. Low-level intoxication. This stage is characterized by a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.01-0.05 percent. Typically, we still act like our normal selves and may only be slightly impaired in reaction or judgment. 
  2. Euphoria and reduced awareness. This next stage is distinguished by a BAC of 0.03-0.12, which may occur after about 1-3 drinks in an hour. It's what people commonly refer to as feeling tipsy, and it’s paired with common feelings of increased confidence and lower inhibitions. In the U.S., a BAC of 0.08 is the legal limit and drivers can be arrested if found with a higher BAC.
  3. Excitement and reduced muscle awareness. This stage is what most of us are in when we say that we are drunk. It’s characterized by a loss of coordination, blurry vision, fluctuating emotions, and impaired memory. BAC levels fall between 0.09-0.25 percent.
  4. Confusion. This is a level of “drunk” that most of us want to avoid. It involves major loss of coordination, lowered pain detection, emotional outbursts, and a high chance of “blacking out.” It’s often reached after 4-5 drinks in an hour and falls between a BAC of 0.18-0.30.
  5. Stupor. At this stage, we require immediate medical attention. With a BAC between 0.25-0.40, we won’t have control of our bodily functions. People in this stage often lose consciousness and are at risk of choking, as the gag reflex stops working.  
  6. Coma. At a BAC between 0.35-0.45, we are at risk of death, as bodily functions slow to a point where we would fall into a coma.
  7. Death. Above a BAC of 0.45, we risk dying from alcohol intoxication. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), excess drinking causes over 140,000 deaths a year in the U.S.

What Is Wine Drunk?

“Wine drunk” refers to the commonly reported feeling that people get when drinking wine in comparison to other alcoholic beverages. Aficionados swear by their vino and describe a calm and cozy type of intoxication. People also report feeling more relaxed, but not drowsy or drained. Does this sound too good to be true? There’s a reason for that! Let’s break down the science behind these claims to shed some light on whether or not wine drunk is different or not. 

Is Wine Drunk Different?

Looking to “wine down” after a long week? After hearing the sommeliers in our circle rave about the relaxing effects of being “wine drunk,” the question of “Is wine drunk different?” may leave us scouring the internet for answers. Could wine leave us feeling merry and allow us to avoid some of the negative aspects of intoxication? 

Turns out, there is little scientific evidence that proves “wine drunk” produces different emotions and experiences than other alcoholic beverages. All alcohol contains the same compound that causes the symptoms of getting drunk: ethanol. Whether we’re sipping on a fancy glass of chardonnay or throwing back shots of tequila, alcohol enters our body and affects the same systems, impacting how we feel and act. While all alcohol is created equal, some of us continue to report different effects. Let’s take a look at some of these differences, then explore other factors that may help to explain the phenomenon of “wine drunk.”

Wine Drunk vs. Beer Drunk

While we’ve discussed the idea of “wine drunk,” beer is also believed to create a unique feeling of drunkenness. Commonly thought of as the “bro” drink of choice, “beer drunk” supposedly brings about a more confident, boisterous persona. Although a glass of wine and a can of beer can have a similar amount of alcohol, wine is more commonly tied with feelings of relaxation and poise. 

Red Wine vs. White Wine

There are few reported differences between the “wine drunk” that different wines produce. However, different types of wine may cause different levels of hangovers. Due to generally having a higher alcohol content, some wine fans declare that the best wine to get drunk fast is red wine. It may get us to the level we want quicker, but it can also produce a more regrettable aftermath.

Wine Drunk vs. Beer Drunk

Factors That Affect How Drunk You Feel

Now that we’ve debunked the myth that alcohol type changes the type of “drunk” we feel, let’s get into some of the factors that do have an effect. The impacts of alcohol on the intensity of intoxication and varying symptoms are based on a number of influences:

  • Alcohol concentration. The higher the concentration of alcohol in a drink, the more drunk we become. This can help to explain why “wine drunk” produces a more relaxed feeling and spirits can produce stronger effects.
  • Amount of alcohol. The more we drink, the drunker we feel. Since wine is usually sipped, it can produce a gentler onset of intoxication in comparison to chugging a beer or knocking back shots. 
  • Time frame of consumption. Differences in the way we consume alcohol affect intoxication, largely from the timing of consumption. The faster we drink, the more intoxicated we’ll feel as our body struggles to process it at the rate it enters our body.
  • Expectations. Our thoughts play a significant role in how drunk we feel and what our intoxication feels like. Differences in our expectations of alcoholic beverages may be the psychological explanation behind why people stand behind the theory of “wine drunk.” While we may not be able to “think” our way out of intoxication, specific feelings associated with the type of alcohol we’re drinking can unconsciously affect the way we act and feel. 
  • Environment. Our surroundings play a factor in “drunkenness,” as it makes a difference in the type and amount of alcohol that we consume. A raging college kegger is likely to produce a greater level of intoxication than a fancy dinner accompanied by a glass of wine. This leads us to associate types of alcohol with specific feelings, creating the concepts of “wine drunk” and “beer drunk.” Certain environments can also include more added pressure to drink.
  • Personal factors. Biological differences such as age, sex, weight, and individual tolerances impact how drunk we feel (and become). It’s important to understand our limits and tune into how alcohol affects us.

Wine Hangovers and How To Prevent Them 

Ever hear the saying, “Beer before wine and you’ll feel fine?” Although we’ve popped the top off the theory of “wine drunk,” there may actually be a difference between a regular hangover and one you get from drinking wine.

Wine is infamous for causing nasty hangovers. If we're looking to enjoy a glass or two without suffering the day after, it may be helpful to understand what causes hangovers and how to avoid them.

In comparison to other alcoholic beverages, wine has a higher level of congeners. Congeners are products of the fermentation process that impact the taste and appearance of the alcohol. Since our body needs to work harder to break down ethanol and added congeners, the toxins from alcohol take longer to be metabolized and eliminated. 

Making intentional choices when drinking can allow us to feel “wine drunk” with a less painful aftermath. Understanding and setting limits can help us reduce the amount of wine we drink. Eating a proper meal and staying hydrated throughout the night can also help combat the symptoms of a hangover.

While there is no foolproof way to avoid hangovers, mindful and responsible drinking can help us develop a healthy relationship with alcohol. 

In Conclusion

Wine, referred to for centuries as the “drink of the gods,” is said to bring about a merry feeling of drunkenness. However, science says it’s not about the wine itself. Now that we know the actual factors that contribute to “how drunk” and the “type of drunk” we feel, we have the tools to make more responsible drinking choices. Enjoy that relaxing glass of wine — and then call it a night.

Summary FAQs

1. What does being drunk feel like?

Common symptoms of being intoxicated include loss of coordination, impaired decision-making, slurred speech, changes in emotion, and tiredness. 

2. Can I get drunk when drinking wine?

The level of intoxication may be dependent on several factors, but like any other type of alcohol, wine can definitely leave us feeling drunk.  

3. How much wine does it take to get drunk?

How much wine to get drunk will vary from person to person. On average, 2-3 glasses of wine will raise our blood alcohol levels beyond legal driving limits.

4. Is wine drunk different from getting drunk off other alcohol?

No, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. Although some of us may report different experiences, it may be based on other influential factors. 

5. What is the difference between wine drunk vs. beer drunk?

Some drinkers report that “wine drunk” brings feelings of relaxation and coziness while “beer drunk” is associated with confidence and rowdiness. 

6. What factors impact how drunk we feel?

The main factors that influence our levels of intoxication include the amount, alcohol content, environment, timing, personal expectations, and biological differences.

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