By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 11 January 2020
One of the current challenges in the wine world is to make a wine with low alcohol level which still tastes good.
More and more drinkers want to moderate their alcohol consumption and lead healthier lives whilst still enjoying the flavour. Some are prepared to head for the ‘low alcohol’ section, whilst others just want to cut out alcohol altogether. We tested a few choices on the market:
For lower alcohol wines, the key is to search for wines from European wine regions. The cooler climate and lower grape ripeness means that there is less sugar to be converted to alcohol during fermentation. Savoie and Loire in France, Mosel in Germany, Vinho Verde in Portugal as well as England are good regions to choose:
White: SAVOIE-CHIGNIN VIEILLES VIGNES 2018 Domaine A&M Quenard (£10.95 The Wine Society)
For those who normally drink Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, head to the beautiful Savoie in the French Alps for some mountain freshness and moderate alcohol from the local Jacquere grape: lemony, waxy notes, reviving vibrant acidity with good length.
White: STOPHAM ESTATE PINOT BLANC 2017 (£14.50-£15.99 Waitrose; Marks & Spencer; The Wine Society; Stopham Vineyard)
Tangy white from West Sussex made by ex-McLaren Formula 1 engineer who changed careers to plant vines in the South Downs. Riper and pithier than many English wines with blossomy elderflower notes, limey, citric and sharp acidity.
White: THE DOCTORS’ SAUVIGNON BLANC 2018 (£8.99 Tesco; Waitrose) ***STAR VALUE***
Dr John Forrest has cleverly crafted a low alcohol Sauvignon using special vineyard canopy management techniques and early picking. Pungent tropical fruit notes, herby, crisp and refreshing with a light finish. Ideal for those who normally drink Kiwi Sauvignon, but don’t want the usual high alcohol.
Zero alcohol ‘wines’ (not legally allowed to be called wine under 9% alcohol) are made in a variety of ways. The most successful is the rotating column method favoured by Torres in Spain for their range of white, rose and red de-alcholised wines. They start making a normal table wine in stainless steel fermentation, the column then removes alcohol, but crucially retains the aroma and mineral salts.
De Bortoli who make Fizzero, use bacterial fermentation to create complexity, without alcohol being formed as a by-product of yeast fermentation. Weingut Leitz in Germany use vacuum distillation which boils off wine alcohol whilst preserving aromas. However – without sugar and alcohol, you do end up with a thinner tasting product and the mouthfeel is very different, so the winemakers have to be very clever the way they make the wine.
[Just to give you a guide – with an alcohol level of 0.5%, there would be 38 calories per 250ml glass]
Sparkling Rose: FIZZERO ROSE (£3.75 Marks & Spencer) ***STAR BUY***
The best zero alcohol fizz I have tasted: a clever blend of sparkling grape juice and a green tea infusion to give a bit more complexity. Initially crisp, creamy with a herby earthy note. Made by Aussie winemakers de Bortoli in Germany.
White: EINS ZWEI ZERO ALCOHOL RIESLING Leitz (£6.99 Waitrose)
This dealcoholized Riesling from Rudesheim in Germany’s Rheingau just manages to keep a hint of the floral fruity character of the grape. It has a citrus and herby nose, but it does taste quite sweet.
White: NATUREO MUSCAT 2018 Torres (£4.99 Waitrose) ***STAR BUY***
With fewer calories than an apple, this is the best dealcoholized wine I have tasted which still bears some resemblance to wine. Made with 100% Muscat, a grape which actually tastes like grapes, so ideal for this style. It tastes surprisingly like a normal wine, with floral notes and quite a bit of honeyed sweetness, but without any length of flavour.
White: ALCOHOL FREE SEMILLON CHARDONNAY Lindemans (£3.50 Asda; Morrisons; £4.99 Ocado)
Looks the part colourwise, with citric aromas and a crisp slightly zesty palate with sharp acid finish; flavour falls off quickly on the palate. Made by Aussie winemakers Lindemans.
Rose: NATUREO SYRAH CABERNET SAUVIGNON ROSE 2018 Torres (£4.99 Waitrose)
For those who like an off-dry style of rose, this well-made rose from Spanish producer Torres is initially crisp with a tutti-frutti boiled sweetness which some tasters enjoyed.
Red: RAWSONS RETREAT ALCOHOL FREE CABERNET SAUVIGNON Penfolds (£4 Tesco; Asda)
The best of the dealcoholized reds, but the packaging could confuse as it is so similar to a normal wine. Spicy aromas, smooth fleshy palate initially, but the flavour fades fast to a very short finish.
A HEALTHY NEW MIXER
MOTHER ROOT GINGER SWITCHEL
(£14.95 – £18.99 for 480ml bt www.thewhiskyexchange.com; The Hand & Flowers, The Ledbury, La Trompette restaurants or through independent Scottish stockists via Liberty Wines; www.motherroot.london)
For all Dry January enthusiasts, I would highly recommend this new ginger mixer for a non-alcoholic cocktail base. This popular switchel is actually a ‘drinking-vinegar’, but don’t let that put you off. Made by Bethan Higson who has 10 years experience in the wine industry. She stopped drinking when pregnant, noticed a gap in the market for healthy non-alcoholic cocktail syrups that had flavour and not too much sweetness.
Higson created her own blend of organic apple cider vinegar, blossom honey, ginger juice, ginger extract with a touch of chilli, based on an C18 American recipe. Loved its zingy ginger citric nose, rich dry palate and long zingy very spicy chilli-twist on the finish. Ideally serve with 3 parts soda or sparkling water over ice for a delicious spritzer garnished with a slice of lime; try her ‘Riesling and Root’ recipe using a low alcohol Dry Riesling and honey or her ‘Hot-not-Toddy’ with hot water, honey, lemon and fennel chai: further information on www.motherroot.london
COME & SUPPORT THE AUSSIES IN THEIR TIME OF NEED! Buy a ticket to Wine Australia Tasting on Monday 27 January at The Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh 6.30pm-8pm (350 wines on offer to taste!): Tickets £20 available from www.australianwine.com