Low alcoholic wines have experienced a resurgence in recent years and they’ve gone from pretty much a joke to an option as valid as any when sharing a glass. An unprecedented number of new ranges and bottles are popping on the shelves and while they are not yet as popular on wine menus, it is reasonable to believe that the trend will only get stronger.
Last year alone, Aldi launched its low-cal, low ABV (5.5%) range Featherweight; Tesco went a step further, adding a collection of three 0.5% wines to its own label portfolio. M&S also launched a line of lighter tipples at 8.5% ABV (still low, but relatively high in comparison). Even global leader in products for the figure-conscious, Weight Watchers, welcomed a 9.6% ABV low-cal Sauvignon Blanc.
Supermarket chains and brands like the aforementioned spend fortunes on research so, when the high-end, the middle-of-the-road and the discounters all make the same move over such a short period of time, there’s hardly a doubt consumers are interested.
How are Low and No Alcohol Wines Made?
There are a two innovations helping quench the thirst for lighter tipples, the spinning cone technique and a process known as reverse osmosis. The first one extracts and then recovers wine’s volatile compounds using steam, and the the latter consists on passing the wine through a very tight filter that separates water and alcohol from the rest (once these two are isolated, distillation can help remove the alcohol and then the rest of the compounds are reintegrated).
But these sci-fi sounding processes are not the only ways to obtain low alcohol wines and there are many bottles that don’t cross the 10% mark that are the product of traditional winemaking techniques.
When winemakers produce low alcohol wines the traditional way, they’re often sweet or off-dry as they contain an amount of residual sugar that did’t transformed into alcohol. Generally, these type of wines come from colder regions as the sunnier and warmer weathers translate in riper fruit (and let’s remember, riper fruit has more sugar, more sugar equals more food for the yeasts to turn into alcohol).
Another traditional way to obtain low alcohol wines is through the Asti method, used to produce the namesake Italian sparkling wine that, contrasting with most fizz, is made with only one fermentation which is stopped while the wine has still sweetness and fresh fruity characters.
Not Just for People on a Diet
If you like coffee and you have the odd decaff cup then you can relate: alcohol free and low alcohol wines are not just for those who can’t, but for those who choose to go the lighter route whether as a lifestyle on at one particular occasion.
Millennial’s drinking habits have been key in the jump into the mainstream of “better for you” alternatives in food and drink. Session beers and mocktails are just two other examples of how the industry caters to new priorities. There’s even a new generation of alcohol free spirits, from which Seelip is probably the most famous (drinks giant Diageo took a minority stake in the UK brand back in 2016).
Below, a list of low and no alcohol wines to discover this January and worth drinking all year round.
Flight Sauvignon Blanc, Brancott Estate
€11.95 (on offer from 15.45) – Available at O’Brien’s Wine nationwide and wine.ie
Crisp and dry, with the fresh characteristics we know and love from Malrborough Sau Blanc: grapefruit, lmon zest and gooseberries.
The wine is naturally low in alcohol as grapes are harvested earlier to keep the sugar levels at bay.
Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato
€14 – Available at Green Man Wines, Martin’s Off Licence, drinkstore.ie, wineonline.ie, Mitchell & Son
I LOVE this Yarra Valley treat. and think it’s the epitome of what the new wave of low alcohol wines should be: light, fun and cool instead of a lame plan B. It’s slightly sweet and fizzy, with guava, raspberry, pink grapefruit and Turkish delight notes.
Moderate in acidity and with a vibrant mouthfeel, it is fresh and cheerful, you can throw in a few strawberries or enjoy it well chilled.
Selbach-Oster Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
€20.45 – Available at O’Briens Wine
This gorgeous Riesling comes from Germany’s Mosel region, one on the world’s most highly regarded places for the variety. Concentrated and intense, it offers a delightful arrangement of white flowers -acacia, honeysuckle- and peach on both nose and palate.
Its high acidity and a delicate sweetness are well balanced and it has a pleasant and floral long finish.
G.D.Vajra Moscato d’Asti 2015
€17.50 – Available at Mitchell and Son, The Corkscrew, Baggot Street Wines
A fruity and fizzy Italian treat with a fraction of Prosecco’s ABV and plenty to give in nose and palate. Peachy and with a floral character, its soft mousse and subtle sweetness feel fresh thanks to a moderate acidity.
It’s just what you want next to a strawberry shortcake, Peach Melba or other fruity desserts.
Torres Natureo White
The best thing I can say about this aromatic wine from Muscat is that on one occasion I served it to a group of friends without telling them it’s de-alcoholised and they said it was lovely.
Fruity and mild, it has flavours of nectarine, yellow plum and a floral touch.
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.