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Low Alcohol Wine

A glass of wine at the end of the working day might seem like the perfect way to relax, but recently the spiralling strength of the average bottle has meant that just one glass can have some unwanted effects. Drinkers accustomed to enjoying white wine that hovers around 10-13 per cent have complained that recent trends for white wines of 15 per cent and even higher were having head-swimming consequences after just one glass. While high strength white wines are arguably equally strong in taste and flavour, many consumers have started to demand a tasty tipple that won't have them toppling over. Today, supermarkets and other wine retailers are responding with wines that have a lower alcohol content without compromising on taste.
Posted 28th December 2009        
     

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A glass of wine at the end of the working day might seem like the perfect way to relax, but recently the spiralling strength of the average bottle has meant that just one glass can have some unwanted effects. Drinkers accustomed to enjoying white wine that hovers around 10-13 per cent have complained that recent trends for white wines of 15 per cent and even higher were having head-swimming consequences after just one glass. While high strength white wines are arguably equally strong in taste and flavour, many consumers have started to demand a tasty tipple that won’t have them toppling over. Today, supermarkets and other wine retailers are responding with wines that have a lower alcohol content without compromising on taste.


Supermarket giants Tesco and Sainsbury’s, along with Marks and Spencer, have been among those leading the charge in the recent trend for lower-alcohol wines. Concerns about health and an increased awareness of alcohol units are further contributing factors to the current trend for less heady wines, with consumers increasingly looking for products that won’t have them exceeding their recommended weekly intake in just a couple of glasses.

With the average bottle of white wine standing at about 12 to 13 per cent alcohol, the term ‘lower alcohol’ can justly be applied to any wine that doesn’t exceed 11 per cent. Sainsbury’s has recently added a special ’10 per cent’ range of wines to its shelves, while other supermarkets are reporting increased sales in lower alcohol white wines such as Portuguese Vinho Verde, which typically stands at between nine and 10 per cent. In 2009 Tesco, the UK’s leading supermarket, introduced its first reduced alcohol white wine – a Chardonnay from the Australian McGuigan winery. Another white wine, together with a red Syrah and a Rose, all from the Plume label, are set to be added to the range. All these wines stand at around 9.5 per cent, an alcohol strength that the manufacturers and retailers claim delivers a marked reduction in alcohol without losing any of the flavour.

Of course, while a little lower in alcohol than many bottles, this type of alcohol percentage is still sufficient to have an intoxicating effect if drunk in anything other than reasonably small amounts. Increasingly, health-conscious consumers are calling for pleasant tasting white wines that are not just lower in alcohol, but genuinely low. Sales of wines that hover around the 5.5 per cent mark have been climbing steadily over the past year, as consumers respond to Government advice about drinking in moderation.

The change in consumer habits is bucking a trend for wines that have been consistently gaining strength in recent years. Rising temperatures, together with a perceived public preference for bold and flavoursome wines, has lead to a wine market where white wines of around 14 per cent are far from unusual. New World wines particularly have been gaining in alcohol strength – while the average strength of a bottle of Australian white wine was around 12.4 per cent in 1984, this climbed to 14 per cent 10 years later. A trend repeated in California and, indeed, across much of the New World. Some Old World wines have also been increasing in alcoholic content – for example, many wineries in the famous Prosecco wine growing region have been harvesting a month earlier than in previous years, to avoid the increased alcoholic strength that has been a result of hotter summers – often pushing the white wines above 15 per cent and into the higher Fortified Wines tax category. To avoid tax problems, many wine producers have reported having to perform ‘reverse osmosis’ – actively reducing the alcohol content to bring wines back to 14.5 per cent or below.

The situation is changing and there is increasing choice for consumers looking for wine that doesn’t pack such an alcoholic punch. Supermarkets are now calling on the UK Government to deliver tax incentives on lower alcohol wines, while consumers are calling for lower-strength wines to be clearly labelled and marketed as such, to make them easier to find on the supermarket shelves. The growing public appetite for lower-alcohol wines certainly looks set to continue, as health concerns, together with drink driving issues, increasingly make their mark on the public consciousness. While there will no doubt still be a market for strong, bold and high alcohol white wine, the world of viticulture may have to adapt its practises if it is to meet consumer demand.

     

19 Responses to “Low Alcohol Wine”

  1. I found this web site in a search for lower alcohol wines. Googling this has led to multiple articles about the arrival of 10% or less in our supermarkets, but not a single link where I can buy the stuff. My own perception is that supermarkets, off licences and wine clubs are all actively raising the strength just to get us all dependent.

    I clicked on the Sainsbury’s link in this article, as they are my local supermarket and I have never seen any low-alcohol promotions. This led me to their home page, so i did another search. I was offered 3 different types of NO alcohol wine, which I have already tried and found to be disgusting.

    Can anyone name some wines that I could try from any of the big supermarkets, or wine clubs, that are around the 10% strength?

    Thanks in advance

    Helen

  2. Hi Helen

    Thanks for your comment – I haven’t found them easy to come by either.

    Did you see this one? Haven’t tracked it down yet myself.

    http://www.tesco.com/wine/product/details/default.aspx?N=8130+8113&No=10&id=261591510

    Or at Majestic this is a lovely wine (which I have tried and enjoyed) coming in at 11%

    http://www.majestic.co.uk/find/product-is-15103/

  3. Hi,
    I’ve also been in search of good drinkable reds with an ABV of between 7.5 and 9%. I talked to the persons in charge of the wine section at the Folkestone branches of Tesco and Sainsburys but neither of them had come across any such wines even though they were featured in press articles in Sept and Dec 2009. I also belong to the Wine Society. but their innitial reply to my enquiry merely stated that they do not have a lower alcohol wine available. That was obvious from their catalogue which I checked before phoning them.
    My next move will be to write to the wine correspondents of the ‘serious papers’ and see if that leads anywhere, perhaps you might also try that.

    Best regards ,

    Hugh.

  4. I have been having the 4 seasons wine collection from the Sunday Times wine club, but it was not as varied in source as I had hoped, and in the last box of 12 only 2 had an ABV under 14%. I wrote cancelling the plan and explained why but the reply ignored my comment.

    I once emailed Sainsburys customer services on the same subject. The responding clerk just picked the closest matching standard letter (which was not related at all), and sent that to me.

    Maybe if you carry on with the serious newspapers, I could try direct to the head honchos of these supermarkets and wine chains. I’m not holding my breath though!

    Kind Regards
    Helen

  5. Hi all,

    Adnams Cellar & Kitchen recently added ABV percentages to every wine on the site. This means it’s possible to search for wines up to 9%. Use the filter pick your preferred range. There’s quite a few 7.5% wines available. See the results of this search:
    http://cellarandkitchen.adnams.co.uk/catalog/search?search%5Bfield%5D=wine&search%5Bcategory_id%5D=&search%5Bprice_range%5D=All&search%5Bgrape_variety%5D=All&search%5Babv%5D=0&sort=abv_desc

    Hope that helps 🙂

  6. Great information, Mark

    I tried it with white wine. Most of the results were German, but I’m willing to give them a try. There was one Sauv Blanc, though and I’ll be reporting back on that shortly!

    I recently found the McGuigan Sauvignon Blanc in my local supermarket. It was drinkable though slightly watery. I might have been inclined to accept this as an inevitable effect of reduced strength, but when I was in Cephalonia, the local hooch was the same strength and much tastier

  7. Looks like the square brackets got stripped out – re: last comment – try this instead – http://bit.ly/9C1qsf

  8. Hi All,
    I’m a newcomer to interactive internet, but I am interested in this topic. I have long argued that wines are for social civilised drinking, not for getting automatically hammered!
    Going some way towards helping, Tesco have a range of light German Reisling, Hock etc at a modest 9.5%, with an equally modest price under £3! Chilled these are reasonably drinkable. Try, and give your views. Cheers!

  9. Tescos do a Pinot Grigio 9% vol – it is the only one I have found. Quite good at £6.50 per bottle.

  10. Hi

    Like a lot of you i ound this link whilst googling low alcohol wine on sale in the uk, after reading many articles about how supermarkets are seeing a large growth. I spent about 20 minutes in Tesco’s today trying to find some decent low alcohol wine and the only one i could really find was a First Cape Cafe Collections wine which has a volume of 5.5%. It’s very sweet and not much more than a very nice cordial but it’s worth a try.

    I’ve got to say though that it is pretty difficult to try to find a decent selection of low alcohol wine

  11. HI

    Have any of you tried the new low alchol wines from Pizza Express Leggera range. The white wine is superb.

    Thanks
    Caz

  12. Not white wine, but I’ve settled in happily to drinking Ernst and Julio Gallo White Zinfandel, which is actually rosé. It is slightly on the sweet side but palatable enough for me, and it doesn’t have that watery taste that many of the lower alcohol offerings have. It is 9% and they do another at the same strength (Grenache I think – but I haven’t tried it.).

    I’ve been getting it from my local Sainsburys and paying over £5 per bottle. There are some cheaper offers on the internet though, and if you buy in bulk you cover the cost of postage

  13. Like Helen, I have found the two E & J wines ok. Not much between them, but at 9% very drinkable for that “after work” tipple. Mixed with mineral or soda water even better.

    I have been living in South Africa for a year – and they have a good range of “light” wines which are between 9-11% and extremely good. Just don’t seem to be able to get them here. The First Cape was one I thought to try – but I saw the comment here that it is very sweet, which is a shame. Perhaps I will still try some in the range

  14. A really good low alcohol white is Gallo Winemakers Seal California White. I think it is about 8 .9 abv and costs around £4.30 per bottle. Gallo also do a nice range in red’s around 11 abv.

    There is another range of very low white and red – it is quite cheap around £3 per bottle and I have bought it in Asda and Tesco. I think it is 8 abv – the red is a bit weak but pleasant enough to drink. The white is quite nice for a cheap low alcohol wine.

    Have been told that you can get a lambrusco light – which is only 40 calories per glass half of the calories of the weightwatchers white and I think it only costs around £1.50 per bottle. I’m going to try that soon – thought it would be good coming up to xmas while watching the weight.

  15. Should have mentioned that the other range of red and white at £3 per bottle is called Three Mills.

  16. Interesting piece here about low alcohol wines.
    http://www.sipswooshspit.com/2010/08/getting-down-with-the-wine-abvs/

    I think it’s tougher to make stunning low alcohol wines – you can’t hide behind the hooch and characteristics need to be far more fine tuned. We’ve recently drunk some excellent ones from Fromm in New Zealand.

  17. 5.5% le chenet merlot is florally fragrant, soft, juicy. Even my partner likes it and he isn’t a wine person. It’s available widely but I got mine from an independent grocery store. It’s also available at Bookers Cash & Carry (trade warehouse). I have been with Naked Wines for a long time and their choice and service is wonderful however I’ve recently cancelled them because there isn’t a wide enough choice of low alcohol wines and also the website doesn’t offer a filter to search for such wines. Hope this is of some help.

  18. Carol, I checked Le Chenet Merlot and all I could see was a 13.5% version. Is there a lighter version? Frankly I think wine has to be 6% ABV or below to be truly reuced alcohol and all the zero or 0.5% versions I’ve tasted so far are………barely tolerable. But they do a job at a particular time i guess. Best ones I’ve found are the Cape Cafe range but it tastes weak and good old Lambrusco. However you will drink the whole bottle….

  19. I have to find low alcohol wines for my pt clients all the time. I have a few that I recommend:

    Winemakers seal Ernst & gallo 8.5%
    Silver bay 8%
    Lambrini 5.5%
    Lambrusco 5.5%
    Banrock station 5%

    Hope these help

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