Low Alcohol Wine - Trendy and Acceptable or Not?
More and more European winemakers are starting to look into the idea of making "lighter" wines -- with 3% to 6% less alcohol content than traditional varieties.
As you can imagine, the wine snobs are turning up their noses at them, but is that fair?
Experts say that such low-alcohol wines taste the same as higher "octane" wines, yet might be healthier for us -- all the fun of a glass of wine, but with less alcohol.
Should we be embracing it by giving it a chance or not?
Definition for Low Alcohol Wine
United States Patent 4902518
A method for the production of low alcohol wine comprising separating a fruit juice into a high sugar fraction and a low sugar fraction, stripping volatile components, such as high-boiling point esters, from the fruit juice or from the high sugar fraction and adding them to the low sugar fraction, and fermenting the low sugar fraction. A preferred method of separating the fruit juice into high and low sugar fractions is by fractional crystallization.
Light Wines - Ideal for Summer Drinking
Light, fruity wines that are low in alcohol are ideal summer wines and a trademark of German winemakers, whose vineyards are among the most northerly in the world, and where conditions for producing light wines are ideal.
High altitude south facing slopes enable a longer growing season, so flavours are greatly enhanced while sugars are not excessive.
According to Ernst BÃ¼scher of the German Wine Institute in Mainz:
"In Germany's wine-growing regions, grapes have a very long time to ripen and develop considerable aromas and flavors. Even though they are relatively low in alcohol (less than 12 percent by volume), the wines are rich in flavour, with a pleasant play of refreshing, fruity acidity and typical varietal aromas."
Germany's white wine varietals are particularly well-suited for light wines. A traditional Riesling Kabinett, or even a young Pinot Blanc or Rivaner, is really a pleasure on a mild summer evening.
Red wine fans won't go empty-handed - Trollinger wines from Wttemberg or young Portugieser from Rheinhessen or the Pfalz are also tasty, light summer wines, particularly if served slightly chilled.
Although most red wines are generally somewhat more full-bodied, not least due to their naturally higher tannin content, other red variations often offer a lighter alternative. "Blanc de Noirs" - red wine vinified with little skin contact and thus little colour - is especially popular these days. Thanks to the way they are produced, these red variant wines combine the fresh character of white wines with the mouth-filling flavour of red varietals.
The various "Seccos" produced in German cellars - often, with less than 11 percent alcohol by volume - are also ideal summer aperitifs. Their carbon dioxide lends them a refreshing, light effervescence.
Light Wines with Light Cuisine
Light wines are also in tune with today's trend toward healthier eating. They are excellent with low calorie, light cuisine, such as salads or menus featuring lots of vegetables.
"Light wines that are relatively low in alcohol (ca. 11-12 percent by volume) are by far the best partners with very spicy dishes. High alcohol intensifies spiciness on the palate."
Off-dry wines, such as Riesling, subdue the heat of spices and Riesling's fruity acidity lends a pleasant freshness to most dishes. Mildly seasoned, stir-fried vegetables and fish go well with light Weiss- or Grauburgunder (Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris).
All wines taste better in the summer, if they are served a few degrees cooler than they would be in winter. Once poured, a wine warms up within a very short time - up to 3Â°C (37Â°F). As such, it's best to serve a wine somewhat chilled. On warm days, white wines and Seccos should be chilled to 6-8Â°C (43-46Â°F), and red variants are ready for drinking when served at about 10C (50F). 10-12C (50-54F) would be about right for a chilled Trollinger.
Light wines are best consumed while young and fresh, when their fruity aromas are most pronounced. They are seldom suited for cellar aging of more than two or three years. One exception, though: Rieslings, such as those from the Mosel. Even the lighter versions are still a true pleasure after several years of aging.
Wines for the Calorie Conscious
Low alcohol wine is just the ticket
In general a glass of wine has fewer calories than a glass of whisky, rum or vodka. Within the realm of wines, some have lower calories than others, but there isn't really a category called 'low calorie wine'. However, wines with lower alcohol levels do have fewer calories than those with higher levels.
Alcohol in wine is produced during the wine making process when the sugars in the grape ferment to alcohol. Therefore, less sugar to convert, means less alcohol in the resultant wine.
Wine companies around the world, in an attempt to meet the demands of the increasingly calorie conscious customers especially women who tend to be weight-watchers, are now manipulating the wine making process. So now wines are being produced with alcohol levels at 10% abv or less, as against wines that would normally be up to 13% - 14% abv. This can be done by picking the grapes early during harvest or by growing grapes in cooler regions or climates, both of which slows down the development of sugar in grapes.
So, a dry wine, and relatively low in alcohol will be your best bet for a low calorie intake. Excellent examples of such wines are:
- Ulrich Langguth Riesling, 10% abv. - Germany
- Domaine Hemelin Chablis, 12% abv. - France
- Dezzani Asti Spumante, 7.5% abv. - Italy
- Luna Argenta Prosecco, 11% abv. - Italy
- Grandial Blanc de Blanc, 11% abv. - France
- Bardolino, 11.5% abv. - Italy
- George du Boeuf Beaujolais Villages, 12.5% abv. - France
The label must always carry the alcohol content in the bottle, so look out for it.
Different Points of View About Alcohol
Many Consumers Prefer Low Alcohol Wines
As the global market sees a continual rise in the strength of wine, the reaction is growing in direct proportion. Many consumers favour wines at 13% or below and technology appears to be accommodating these desires.
Reduced alcohol wines have all but disappeared from the U.S. market and were never an issue in Canada or the U.K. where climatic conditions naturally favoured moderate alcohol levels. The emerging leader in this market sector appears to be France, which is now exporting wines from the south at levels reduced to 9-11% using new technologies.
The new technologies employ putting finished wine through reverse osmosis or using spinning cone technology to separate out the alcohol and adjust it to more desirable levels.
Do these high-tech wines really compete with higher alcohol wines made in traditional ways? A blind tasting conducted by the French National Institute for Agronomic Research showed that tests on more than 1,000 people demonstrated that producers could reduce the alcohol content by up to three percentage points without an ordinary drinker noticing.
More info on low alcohol wine
Low Alcohol Wine Poll
Higher Alcohol Levels Caused by Global Warming
More heat = more alcohol
Director of the wine unit at the French National Institute for Agronomic Research, Jean-Louis Escudier says,
"There has been an increase of 2-3% in alcohol content in wines from southern France, Italy and Spain over the past 15 years."
- A standard bottle used to contain 11% or 12% alcohol, now 13% or 14% is common.
- The main reason is global warming, which results in riper grapes, with higher sugar levels - which gives rise after fermentation to more alcohol.
- This has been compounded by a tendency for vineyards to plant grape varieties that produce more sugar, in an attempt to meet the perceived international demand for sweet, fruity wines.
- Improved winemaking techniques also enable producers to harvest later, ensuring riper grapes.
- Another reason for the trend lay in yield reductions, which tended to foster more concentrated and therefore alcoholic wines.
Books on Global Warming
How Do You Reduce Alcohol In Wine?
How do you make a wine that is dry but has less alcohol in it?
- You can do it "naturally" in the vineyard, by choosing grape varieties and clones with care, growing them in cooler sites and picking while sugar levels are still low. In other words, by producing grapes that will make a wine that simply is lower in alcohol.
- There are a few ways of doing this in the winery.
- One technique is known as reverse osmosis. The wine is passed through a filtration system that removes a mixture of water and alcohol. This is then distilled, to rid it of some alcohol, and the remaining liquid is reunited with the wine from which it was removed. This lower alcohol wine can then be blended back into the main body of wine to dilute its strength.
- Another system involves a giant steel construction that feeds the wine over a series of spinning cones and uses evaporation to strip the alcohol out of it.
Click on the image below to see a flash demo of reverse osmosis.
Wine Accessories on Amazon
In 2010, the World Cancer Research Fund was urging those drinkers keen on wine to try 10% abv wines rather than the usual 12-14% abv.
The experts said that if everyone switched over to lower alcohol drinks, hundreds of cases of cancer could be prevented. Anyone drinking a large glass of wine daily, could minimise their risk of developing breast cancer or bowel cancer, by a staggering 7% - and that's just by reducing from 14% to 10%.
A reduction in other cancers resulting from alcohol, such as throat, voicebox, liver and mouth could also be achieved by switching.
Remember that sweeter wines are often weaker as less of the sugar has been converted into alcohol.
Image by Erik Anestad
Please Leave Your Mark With a Comment - Cheers and bottoms up!
AlanJC321 on June 08, 2014:
Thanks for the interesting read. I didn't know a lot of this. Cheers!
chrisilouwho on February 18, 2014:
interesting, I haven't heard of this before
lesliesinclair on November 02, 2013:
That cancer link is new to me, but since I don't imbibe in alcoholic drinks maybe it just passed through me as I enjoyed the labels and ate the grapes.
cancerfunds1 on October 23, 2013:
A bit every night after dinner would be good for health, but just don't over do it. http://CancerFunds.org
katiecolette on May 14, 2013:
I grew up in Europe, and I remember learning that a good wine should contain no more than 6-6.5% alcohol. I rarely drink stronger wines - they give me headaches... Wine with low alcohol content is the best!
Gardener Don on May 04, 2013:
The theory of recent higher alcohol content being a result of global warming => higher sugar content in the grapes is bit "out there" - or was that a joke? (Maybe you can tell I don't buy into this global warming stuff - I just came through a 7 month winter - aint no global warming in these parts!)
anonymous on April 28, 2013:
How interesting you have made learning about what causes alcohol levels in wine and that it really is a wise choice for wine drinkers to go with the lower % in cancer prevention from alcohol use...and I don't think anyone will miss the 3-6% difference.....I do enjoy wine and now I'll know a little more about it...as always, very nicely done sir!
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on April 12, 2013:
This is wine time for us and am enjoying reading your lens. Wine is really good with company.
geosum on March 30, 2013:
I'll add some to my low-carb diet.
ItsTimeToBurn on February 18, 2013:
Good info. I'm going to try it!
norma-holt on December 31, 2012:
A new blessing on this lovely lens and may you have a wonderful, successful and happy 2013. Hugs
anonymous on November 29, 2012:
low alcohol? but does it have the same kick?
victoriahaneveer on November 22, 2012:
I'd try it but I'd be concerned about lack of flavor. I think the balance might be disrupted. I'm always happy to try a new wine though.
anonymous on October 28, 2012:
I'd try it, I love Red wine if I could get a bottle of low alcohol red wine I'd be chuffed.
getmoreinfo on October 21, 2012:
Thanks for the information about Low Alcohol Wine.
sailor_man on October 19, 2012:
I return visit and recommend for other lenses
JoshK47 on October 19, 2012:
Very interesting! I'd not heard of low alcohol wine.
sailor_man on October 18, 2012:
This lens is pretty cool and I'm happy to look at my
NotYetWed LM on October 10, 2012:
great lens! less alcohol with more taste!
winestomp on September 18, 2012:
Great lens. I happen to like the George du Boeuf Beaujolais Villages mentioned above.
anonymous on September 11, 2012:
Much fewer accidents here too since they are allowing less alcohol. With the Wines I am not sure what is happening really think they are still growing the same kind which gives a lot of alcohol.
anonymous on September 10, 2012:
norma-holt on September 03, 2012:
Nice lens Rob. I am all for less alcohol although I don't tpich it myself. Featured on Blessed by Skiesgreen 2012-2 and also on Drugs Trafficking Couriers and Mules. Hugs
SamanthaCollins128 on August 16, 2012:
Interesting and informative lens. I heard about low alcohol wines in my
RSA Melbourne training and now I know more about it because of this lens. Thanks for sharing.
anonymous on August 08, 2012:
I did not know about low-alcohol wine until reading your lens. Sounds like a healthy choice! Thanks for sharing this lens with us.
Fishtilt on August 05, 2012:
Hey man I love the page and it's really helpful too, so I'm gonna squidlike it. I made one about how many calories are in various alcohols including different strength wines, beers, ciders, spirits, cocktails etc. Take a look if you get time. (http://www.squidoo.com/how-many-calories-are-in-yo...
kevin-collins on June 24, 2012:
Awesome information on low alcohol wines. I definitely like the more fruity and lighter varieties in the summer. Bolder flavors are better in the winter though. Thanks for creating such a great lens!
antoniow on June 14, 2012:
Great lens, well done! Squidlike
squid-pinkchic18 on April 30, 2012:
Wonderful information here! i always learn so much from your lenses. Please keep them coming :)
Cynthia Davis from Pittsburgh on April 14, 2012:
Angel Blessings** Cheers.
jlochicago on April 10, 2012:
I've also noticed that quantity of wine seems to be increasing. Before it used to be around 5 ounces and now I often get 6-7 ounces of wine. Having a lighter wine would really help the blood alcohol content. Who wants to leave when you have wine left glass?
anonymous on March 23, 2012:
This article was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last week. press release writing services
JimDickens on March 20, 2012:
I will take my resveratrol without the wine, thank you
anonymous on March 17, 2012:
Great info here Rob, well done
poutine on March 17, 2012:
The less the better in this case.
anonymous on March 17, 2012:
I would love to try low alcohol wine, I had no idea it existed, but am going to ask for it now :)
Laraine Sims from Lake Country, B.C. on February 28, 2012:
This is a wonderful lens and I am recommending that it receives a purple star. Our area is producing a very tasty ice wine that I just love. It is expensive but a sip of that wine is sometimes all you need for dessert.
leeleon on February 19, 2012:
In my opinion, less alcohol content in wine, we can be more healthier .
nelsonkana on February 03, 2012:
wow. Really interesting to know the exact percentage of alcohol we take in when drinking certain kinds of wine. Great lens here
SaintFrantic on October 06, 2011:
Thanks.I didn't know that.
MariaMontgomery from Central Florida, USA on September 26, 2011:
Another lens to bookmark.
anonymous on September 22, 2011:
Love your lense. Specially I am a wine & party lover. So best for the people like us. Like French wine most :)
livetech lm on July 20, 2011:
I agree with David below, if alcohol is removed then flavour naturally will be removed! Great lens any who. Feel free to check out my lens about French Red Wines! http://www.squidoo.com/french-red-wines, Thank you.
anonymous on July 18, 2011:
There is no question, that by removing alcohol you also remove flavour, so why are wine producers starting to do this? The reason is the demand from powerful supermarkets for low alcohol or reduced alcohol wines. If these supermarkets are requesting this, they must have good reason to do so, i.e. the public must be demanding it of them. wine refrigerator
slschumacher2 on July 17, 2011:
I am really intreagued by your lense, great information. Lovely work.
Wine Party Ideas blog
phoenix arizona f on May 22, 2011:
Of course it's acceptable! Take my calories do NOT take my beverage!
pheonix76 from WNY on April 30, 2011:
I have never had low-alcohol wine, but definitely would like to try it! I do enjoy wine from time to time, and would like a lower-calorie option. :) Very informative lens and excellent use of a reverse osmosis diagram!!!!
stefanruse on April 14, 2011:
I never tried such Fine Wine , but I will definitely taste some after reading this great lens. Well, of course that low alcohol drink is better for your health, but I am not sure what the taste of such wine will be. I will try to share again my opinion. Thank you for uncovering another wine secret for me. Cheers.
MargoPArrowsmith on April 04, 2011:
Interesting concept, but I don't drink enough wine to know
jolou on March 26, 2011:
I like wine, particularly white wines.
KimGiancaterino on March 19, 2011:
I never worry about calories, but alcohol affects insulin levels which in turn cause the body to store fat. Low alcohol wines are appealing to many consumers, and I'm glad to see more of them on the market.
anonymous on February 17, 2011:
this is so interesting. I love wine but don't want to suffer from the bad effects that the normal wines, with a high alcohol content, usually causes, so if I can drink a wine with a very low alcohol content which wont make me have any bad effects after, this is just great!!
Ruth Coffee from Zionsville, Indiana on February 06, 2011:
All kinds of interesting info here. I had no idea the alcohol content in wine had crept up in recent years.
anonymous on October 21, 2010:
I have recently been ill and am on medication which cannot tolerate alcohol, and as I love wine I began looking for alternatives. I have found that dealcoholised wine has all the lovely flavour of wine but without the alcohol content. I can now enjoy my wine with everyone else and don't feel that I am 'missing out'. Try it - I'm sure you will feel the same.
anonymous on January 29, 2010:
I have been wondering whether (low) alcoholic fruit juice can be prepared
janester on October 20, 2009:
You should check out Adnams Cellar and Kitchen. They've just added abv's to the wines on their site. Just click filter to sort by alcohol by volume. http://cellarandkitchen.adnams.co.uk
TLC33 on September 22, 2009:
Great topical subject, and one that will be addressed more in the future, I'm sure. Love your wine lenses, and always learn a lot, many thanks. 5 stars!