Wine contains alcohol, so it will definitely make you drunk if consumed in excess. The alcohol in wine comes from the fermentation of sugar in grapes, so the higher the sugar level of the grapes, the higher the alcohol content of the wine.
The sugar level, which accumulates during ripening, is directly related to the grapes‘ growing climate. Grapes grown in hotter regions have higher sugar – hence higher alcohol – whereas grapes in cooler regions have lower alcohol. If you prefer slightly lower-alcohol wine, choose wine from Germany or northern Italy. Warmer regions such as South Australia and California have higher alcohol.
Some varieties have naturally lower sugar and alcohol. Riesling and Pinot Blanc (white grapes) are amongst them. For red wine, Beaujolais and Valpolicella usually have slightly lower alcohol.
Obviously, a wine with lower alcohol will not make you drunk as quickly, but ultimately too much wine always will. The best way to avoid getting drunk is to drink slowly (i.e., not the Chinese style of gangbei 乾杯) – drink with food and sip water in between. After all, the true joy of wine is savouring it with your meal.
Some people believe that sparkling wine bubbles “go straight to the head”, making them giggly and light-headed. Yes, there are studies suggesting that alcohol from carbonated drinks does travel through the bloodstream faster, but after a certain period of time, the absorption of alcohol from the same amount of still and sparkling wine is the same. My view is that most sparkling wine is consumed as an aperitif on an empty stomach. The wine is relatively light in alcohol and easy to drink (think Prosecco). Therefore we simply drink it faster, but the bubbles are wrongly blamed as the culprit. Next time you have a glass of bubbly, drink (and eat!) slowly and see if you still think the bubbles go straight to your head.