There’s no feeling finer than kicking back with friends over a glass of wine. Wine isn’t as heavy on alcohol as most hard liquors and thus, is often considered by many to be the ideal social drink. But are you and your guests at risk of spontaneous fires arising from your wine consumption habits and if so, what should you do about that?
Wine is not flammable, as it usually has an alcohol content between 12% and 15%. This is not enough alcohol (ethanol) to catch fire under normal circumstances.
So, you can enjoy that wine without too much worry about fire, but let’s take a closer look at wine and flammability first.
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Also read: What Makes Something Flammable?
What Is Wine? (Chemically)
Wine is a fairly complex alcohol product when compared to say, Vodka, which is just a mixture of ethanol (ethyl alcohol) and water.
You make wine by fermenting grapes (or, indeed, any other fruit) and this fermentation process creates some ethanol, the alcohol in all alcoholic drinks.
It also creates other more complex chemicals too, such as tannins, in red wine, which are, in a large part, responsible for the extra-strength hangover you get when you drink too much red wine.
Some of the sugar used in fermentation will remain in the wine and there may be many different chemicals created which provide the overall body, taste and aroma of the wine.
However, what is important to note, in regard to flammability, is that wines are not spirits and they contain about 12-15% (sometimes a little more or a little less) alcohol by volume when the product is ready for drinking.
The other chemicals in wine make up a tiny fraction of the remaining product with, by far, the largest component of wine being plain water.
As you probably already know, water does not burn.
This makes it particularly useful for extinguishing fires rather than for starting them.
Does It Catch Fire?
In ordinary circumstances, wine does not catch fire, as there is too much water and not enough alcohol (ethanol) in wine for it to burn.
Sure, the alcohol in the wine can, theoretically speaking, catch fire but even if it did manage to do so – the flame wouldn’t spread and would instantly be extinguished.
This is why flaming desserts, for example, tend to use spirits such as vodka or Grand Marnier to achieve their burning effect rather than a nice Cabernet Sauvignon.
That’s not to say that wine isn’t used in desserts, it is. Just that you won’t find it as the key accelerant for a flaming dessert.
However, if you were to store a lot of wine in a poorly ventilated area and that wine was open to the air – it would be possible, over time, for the ethanol to evaporate.
Without ventilation, the alcohol would not disperse effectively. This ethanol vapor would, in fact, be able to catch fire and could cause serious injury.
However, we can’t think of any normal circumstances under which this is likely to happen.
Even in catering, it’s customary to only open a few bottles at any given time and to open new bottles as the need arises, rather than opening all the wine for an evening in one go.
Is It Combustible?
No, wine is not flammable or combustible. It will boil, but will not catch fire due to its low alcohol and high water content.
Is It Flammable During Fermentation?
No, even during fermentation there’s very little risk of wine catching fire.
In fact, one of the natural byproducts of fermentation is carbon dioxide, which is used in fire extinguishers for its ability to smother a fire.
So, you can ferment your own wine with peace of mind.
Also read: Is Vinegar Flammable? Can it Catch Fire?
What About Cooking Wine?
Cooking wine, like most wines is not flammable due to its low alcohol content (around 16%). It will not catch fire under normal circumstances.
It is not dangerous to cook with wine when it comes to using wine to add flavor or character to your dishes.
For example, red wine is often used to make a dark beef gravy richer and smoother than it might otherwise have been.
It is, however, not a good idea to cook with wine under certain circumstances. These don’t have anything to do with fire safety, but they are things to be aware of.
Obviously, cooking wine should not be used if your guests do not drink alcohol for whatever reason.
Though they say that all the alcohol is removed during cooking, that is not always true. It actually takes a lot longer than most people think to cook ut all the alcohol.
What Is The Alcohol Flashpoint?
The flashpoint of pure ethanol is 55-62 degrees Fahrenheit (13-17 degrees Celsius). The flashpoint of hard spirits alcohol can range from 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 – 26 degrees Celsius).
If you kept pure alcohol around the home, you would need to store it very carefully as it will catch fire at these fairly low temperatures.
However, it’s important to note that the flashpoint requires a spark or source of flame to start the fire.
The autoignition point of ethanol, that is the temperature at which the alcohol will ignite without a flame or spark, is 689 degrees Fahrenheit (or 365 degrees Celsius).
So, while alcohol is very flammable, it won’t just suddenly catch fire while your back is turned, either. Especially because most people aren’t deal with pure alcohol.
Also read: Is Beer Flammable? Will it Catch Fire?
What Percentage Alcohol Is Considered Flammable?
Alcohol is usually considered flammable when it is above 40% to 50% of the volume of the drink (80 to 100 Proof).
For this reason, wine, which averages 12 to 15 percent alcohol by volume, is not flammable.
Also read: Is Rice Flammable? Can It Start a Fire?