Low-alcohol wine is finally catching on

by Michael Cooper / 16 December, 2016
Photo/Getty Images

Courting calorie counters, wines with less than 10% alcohol have hit the shelves in the US in recent years, promoted by celebrity nutritionists and marketed under such brands as Skinnygirl. Here, such low-alcohol wines – often dubbed “lifestyle” wines – have captured 2.4% of total wine sales in supermarkets. But are they really lower in calories?

An analysis of US wines published in The Drinks Business found that the calorie savings “aren’t particularly significant”. A normal glass of white wine, containing 13.5% alcohol by volume, had 112 calories, compared with 95 calories per glass for wines in The Skinny Vine range (labelled as Slim Chardonnay, Mini Moscato and Thin Zin).

Made from early picked grapes, low-alcohol wines are typically relatively high in acidity and natural, unfermented grape sugars – hence the moderate reduction in calories. It’s also fair to say that low-alcohol wines made from such grapes as sauvignon blanc are not only lighter in alcohol, but also in flavour richness. But if you want to enjoy a glass or two at lunch, and stay clear-headed for the afternoon’s work, they could be the answer.

Wairau River Summer Marlborough Riesling 2016 ••••

Made “to be supped with frivolous frivolity”, this fresh, light-bodied wine (9.5% alc/vol) is medium-sweet, with good intensity of peachy, citrusy flavours, fresh and tangy. Delicious from the start. $20

Lindauer Enlighten Moscato Rosé •••½

This recently launched sparkling is just 8.5% alc/vol. Based on muscat grapes, it was blended with a splash of pinotage (hence its enticing, pale pink hue). Deliciously light and lively, it is unabashedly sweet, but very crisp, fruity and well balanced, in a simple but vivacious style that offers plenty of pleasure. $13

Old Coach Road Lighter in Alcohol Nelson Riesling 2015 •••

From Seifried, this is a crisp, slightly sweet wine (9.5%/vol), with vibrant, lemony, appley, limey flavours, a firm acid spine and lots of drink-young charm. $13

Villa Maria Private Bin Lighter Hawke’s Bay Rosé 2016 •••

Bright pink, this blend of pinot noir, arneis and merlot is light bodied (10% alc/vol), with a floral bouquet and vibrant strawberry and watermelon flavours, fresh, slightly sweet and crisp. $17

Spy Valley Easy Tiger Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 •••

Light bodied, with green-edged flavours, this wine (9%/vol) is tasty and a lot drier than most, with a hint of passionfruit, appetising acidity and even a touch of complexity (from some barrel fermentation). $18

This article was first published in the November 5, 2016 issue of the New Zealand Listener. Follow the Listener on Twitter, Facebook and sign up to the weekly newsletter.

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