By Rose Murray Brown MW   Published in The Scotsman 16 January 2021


It’s that time of year again when drinkers look to moderate alcohol consumption, but still want to enjoy the flavour. 

All our choices below are 12% or below – light on alcohol, but big on flavour.  Virtually all come from cool climates where lower grape ripeness means there is less sugar to be converted to alcohol during fermentation.

Txakoli de GetariaGetaria, Spain:  TXAKOLI DE GETARIA 2019 Domaine Ameztoi (11%)  ***STAR BUY***
£14.25 L’Art du Vin

A big hit at our recent Spanish tasting.  From vineyards overlooking the Bay of Biscay, Ignacio Ameztoi crafts this wonderful tangy fizz from local Hondarrabi Zuri grapes.  Don’t be put off by the lurid bright gold and green label, this is beautifully lemony, sharp, salty with a piercing acidity and savoury saltiness finishing with refreshing bitterness and classic Txakoli spritz.  Ignacio is also experimenting with making an even lower alcohol Txakoli at just 9.5%; watch this space.

Veneto, Italy: COL FONDO ASOLO PROSECCO NV Case Paolin (11.5%)
£15 Woodwinters

Getting bored of over-processed Prosecco?  Try a more natural purer expression, ‘Col Fondo’ means ‘with sediment at bottom’.  Case Paolin select later-picked Glera grapes from older vineyards and macerate on skins for 18 hours.  Second fermentation takes place in bottle (normal Prosecco is made in tank) with no disgorgement, yeast lees sediment remains creating funky cloudy fizz with intense honey notes, brioche bready notes, herby apple, saline savouriness and very dry authentic sourness.

Gascony, France: TESCO FINEST COTES DE GASCOGNE 2019 Plaimont (11.5%)
£6.50 Tesco

Fantastic value for those looking for a fresh zippy aperitif.  This screwcapped dry white is made from the local Gros Manseng by winemaker Christine Cabri of the hugely successful Plaimont co-operative, which has done so much to help promote the disparate wine styles from south west France.  Light floral notes, apricot fruits, gently spicy and fresh crisp vibrant acidity – a good alternative to Pinot Grigio.

Savoie, France: CHIGNIN-BERGERON 2017 Domaine Claude Quenard (12%)
£20 Sevslo Wine

Attractive aromatic white made from high quality, but little known, Roussanne – the only grape allowed to be used for Chignin-Bergeron in Savoie.  Grown on steep marl/limestone slopes at 300m, it has appealing white blossom aromas, rich pineapple and apricot flavours and good backbone of acidity.  There are eight different Quenard domaines in Chignin; this is made by Claude’s sons Andre & Guy Quenard from certified organic and biodynamic vineyards.

Loire, France: MUSCADET DE SEVRE ET MAINE SUR LIE 2018 Ch de la Bretonnerie (12%)
£11.99 Luvians; Reserve Wines

Muscadet from a good producer like young vigneron Frederic Guilbaud, the third generation to run his family’s small family 7 hectare estate, is an ideal choice for lower alcohol wine lovers – and it offers such good value too.  Guilbaud crafts fine unoaked zippy Muscadet with minerally acidity, green apple and creamy leesy palate from low lying sandy silty soils near Nantes.

Doctors Sauvignon Blanc MarlboroughMarlborough, New Zealand: THE DOCTOR’S SAUVIGNON BLANC 2019 (9.5%)
£7 reduced from £9 until 25 Jan at Tesco; £8.99 Waitrose

Using special vineyard canopy management techniques and early picking, Dr John Forrest has cleverly crafted a low alcohol Sauvignon which is pungently fruity, herby and crisp.  The main difference in comparison to the normal Kiwi Sauvignon is in its lighter finish – but ideal for those who normally drink New Zealand wines and now want to limit their alcohol intake.

Mosel, Germany: HERRENBERG RIESLING KABINETT 2016 Weingut Carl Loewen (9%) ***STAR BUY***
£16.99 Raeburn Wines

From high altitude slopes of famous Maximin Herrenberg vineyard in Longuich with vines planted ungrafted in 1903 – the slow ripening here retains acidity giving light pure Kabinett.  Winemaker Christopher Loewen wild ferments in old 1200 litre Mosel fudres – giving light petrol notes, rich sweet peach, mango and honeysuckle notes, honeyed palate with an off-dry finish.  Lovely example of 2016 Mosel vintage.

Vaud, Switzerland: CHASSELAS ROMAND 2019 Caves de la Cote (11.5%)
£16.20 Alpine Wine

Vaud region’s Chasselas tend to be on the lighter side, in comparison to warmer Valais to the east.  From grapes grown mostly in Nyon and Morges in Vaud, this is a typical example of the grape – an aperitif style with fresh zesty juicy palate, yellow plum fruits and herby savouriness.

Sussex, England: HIDDEN SPRING BACCHUS FUME 2019 (11%)
£15.99-£20 Waitrose; Hidden Spring

I normally struggle with English Bacchus, but this medal winning dry Fume from a relatively new Sussex vineyard is richer and more exotic than many others.  Floral, lemony with characteristic hedgerow blossoms, but with an underlying vanilla notes, finishing dry.

Utiel Requena, Spain:  BOBAL ACADEMIA DE LOS NOCTURNOS 2018 Pago de Tharsys (12%)  ***STAR BUY***
£7.50 currently on offer at L’Art du Vin www.aduv.co.uk

Brilliant value unoaked Bobal with bright raspberry and blackcherry aromas, balsamic hints, ripe tannins and a soft silky mouthfeel – made by the enterprising Vincente Garcia & daughter Rebecca who have helped transform Bobal’s reputation.  This thick-skinned late ripening grape was once Utiel Requena’s main blending grape, now used to make soft succulent varietal wines.

Savoie, France: MONDEUSE ‘LE TITHONEON’ 2019 Domaine de L’Idylle (12%)
£14.25 Yapp

Ancient Mondeuse is Savoie’s most exciting red grape which consistently makes wines with lower alcohol, but it needs to be handled carefully.  A rare relative of Syrah, it shares a similar pepperiness.  The Tiollier brothers in Cruet village create this unoaked example with bright red fruits, savoury tanginess and a supple lightness so typical of Mondeuse.

Casas del Bosque Late Harvest RieslingSWEET
Casablanca, Chile: LATE HARVEST RIESLING 2018 Casas del Bosque (12%) ***STAR BUY***
£13-£15 hf bt Old Bridge Wine; The Wine Reserve; Shaftesbury Wines; Hannibal Brown

Stunning dessert wine from Casablanca’s western end, where morning fog lingers followed by bright sunshine which encourages botrytis cinerea (noble rot).  Winemaker Meinard Bloem picks three times over to get mature well-ripened grapes and ferments slowly in old French oak for 6 weeks before maturing in tank.  Rich intense sweet honeyed Riesling with caramel notes and fresh acidity.


Join Rose’s English Sparkling Wine virtual tasting with Harrow & Hope Friday 22 January 2021 www.rosemurraybrown.com

wine tastings

The perfect gift for the wine enthusiast in the family. Rose does In-person tastings too.

cellar advice

Rose does cellar valuations for private clients, valuations for insurers & bespoke portfolio management.

Related stories

  • January 13, 2024

    2024 will be a year in which winemakers will be aiming to achieve increased sustainability in every aspect from planting to packaging and it will also be a year in which drought issues will be top priority as water becomes scarce in key wine regions. Alternative packaging is now a key topic when it comes to sustainability with wine

  • January 6, 2024

    My pick of progressive wineries to watch in 2024: Georgia: ORI MARANI www.orimarani.com An impressive newcomer to the Georgian wine scene .  This small artisan winery in Kartli region was set up seven years ago by French-born Bastien Warskotte (pictured above) and his Georgian wife Nina Gvantseladze.  Warskotte was brought up in Champagne – and is now making premium

  • December 2, 2023

    For those who like a wine book with a difference, the new Vintage Crime by Rebecca Gibb MW (£25 University of California Press) with its potted history of wine fraud certainly fits the bill.   Author Gibb gives us a fun romp through the ages highlighting high profile wine scams and lesser-known duplicitous behaviour that has plagued wine over the