Embracing Low-Alcohol Wines this Festive Season

Embracing Low-Alcohol Wines this Festive Season

With the Christmas parties starting and the silly season in full swing, sales of Big Macs, Panadol and Berocca are set for their annual sales spike. It’s that time of year when good intentions are frequently subverted by the frivolity of the moment and before you know it, daybreak on Saturday morning is greeted by the sound of a jackhammer in your head and a good dose of photosensitivity when the curtains are drawn. But times are a changing! While there’s still plenty of demand for beer, wine and spirits, a growing cohort of consumers are opting to celebrate the festive season with low alcohol alternatives.

In recent years, the demand for low alcohol wines has been steadily increasing across the globe. Australia, known for its thriving wine industry, has also witnessed a surge in the production and consumption of these lighter styles. It seems that the rise in health consciousness and changing consumer preferences have led to a shift towards lower alcohol content in many beverages, including wine. Low alcohol wines typically contain less than 10% alcohol by volume, making them an ideal choice for those seeking a more moderate drinking experience.

And there are many reasons for the shift. For one, Australians are becoming more health conscious and increasingly concerned about the adverse impact of alcohol consumption. Secondly, social standards are changing as low alcohol and no alcohol wines are no longer stigmatised. “Mindful drinking” has become popular amongst generation Z who are happy to enjoy a drink but not to excess. And then there’s the quality. Where once the low alcohol wines were considered to require a compromise on quality and taste, new generation winemakers have made significant advances in producing flavoursome, well-balanced and stylish wines.

To be a low alcohol wine, it needs to have an alcohol content of below 10%, but to make those wines, traditional winemaking practices have achieved that by stopping the fermentation process. As yeasts act on the sugar, alcohol is made; so, in order to create a low alcohol wine, winemakers usually achieved their goal by bringing a premature end to the ferment but in doing so, they often produced wines with an undesirably high level of residual sugar. The new generation of winemakers have, however, overcome this through new techniques such as early harvesting, using larger canopies, to slow ripening and gentle extraction methods to achieve wines with low alcohol but genuine quality.

I recently tried a couple of low alcohol wines by Yalumba that have only 7% alcohol and are priced at only $16 RRP. The 2023 Y Series Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio are part of a series of wines established by the Hill-Smith family in 2002. The family say that they had a desire to “explore the next generation of low impact, approachable wines”. And I reckon they nailed it!

The 2023 Y Series chardonnay is a lively style. Citrus blossom and spice on the nose and tropical fruit and honeydew on the palate. I love the quartz and lime characters that squeeze the Weis mango ice-cream conclusion. Fresh and racy. Yum.

The 2023 Pinot Grigio, on the other hand, has a nose like a German bakery!  Swish and swirl and sourdough and apple strudel characters emerge before pear, honeysuckle and Fuji apple flavours drive through the mid-palate. There’s a definite richness to the finish that ends in a wave of nectarine creaminess. You’d never guess that it’s only 7%!

Attitudes towards drinking are changing, but so too are the winemaking practices of our innovative and creative winemakers. If you’re keen to avoid the Saturday morning pilgrimage to the Macca’s drive thru this Christmastide, then these low alcohol wines might be just the tonic!

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