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The aim of these ‘What’s what’ pieces isn’t to explain stuff to you that you already know well, but to give you a ready-made resource to share with your customers and/or staff – the Readers’ Digest version of some of Wine’s most used phrases. Up next: low- and no-alcohol.


 

We get it. This may well be the 1000th article you’ve read already on low-alcohol gear. We know it’s a trend. We know it’s not going away. We know some of us are a bit grumpy about it but, it’s a reality and so we might as well embrace it!

Anecdotally, we’re being asked more and more for lower alcohol options, so we’re pulling ourselves into shape on that front. But there are certainly plenty of questions to be answered around what’s “low”, what’s “ultra-low” and what’s “no”, not to mention how they make the stuff! This is the kind of info you’re not going to find on a WSET course (though that may change). You will, if you do some digging, be able to find out on the great all-knowing ‘internet’, but we’ve done that for you so don’t bother…

Here’s your what’s what of low- and no-alcohol wine:

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Key Points:

 

 

‘Low’ is a subjective term. After all, everything is relative, right? But joking aside, there are legal terms to be aware of when it comes to low- and no-.

1.2% ABV is the limit for ‘low-alcohol’. For ‘Alcohol-free’ the limit is 0.05% ABV. Those are your main ones, in-case anyone is asking.


 

 

 

 

Now it gets pretty technical here and I’m far from qualified to talk you through it in enough detail. But the main processes involve starting with a regular wine and removing the alcohol.

One method is reverse osmosis, which involved filtering out the aroma compounds and phenolics of the wine, before removing the alcohol via distillation. Do this 3-4 times and you’ve got yourself a low-alcohol wine (around 0.5% ABV). The other preferred option is the ‘spinning cone’ method, which involves spinning wine in a centrifuge and removing the alcohol gradually.

Here’s an article which gives you all the detail you could wish for: click here.

 

 

Well alcohol obviously, but it is true that low- and no-alcohol wine is different from the stuff you’re used to drinking. Particularly with reverse osmosis, you tend to get diminished aromas and, in red wines, tannins. Alcohol is integral to the mouthfeel and balance of the wine we know and love, so when it’s gone it can be tempting to dismiss low- and no- products as ‘just not real wine’. But, this feels unhelpful.

Low- and no-alcohol wines are inherently different and should be treated as such. There’s also a growing market for them and production methods are improving all the time, it would be foolish to write it off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It should be said that there are plenty of options out there for those looking for something lighter, and they’ve been around for donkey’s. Granted, they’re not officially low- or no- but they do make use of the handy suffix ‘-er’.

Of course, lower alcohol wines tend to be on the sweeter side of things, so Moscato D’Asti, Brachetto D’Acqui, Lambrusco and sweeter styles of Riesling are all particularly handy examples of wines to recommend that you may already stock. But there are wines, such as our own ‘Voleur de Vin’, which now comes in at just 9.5% ABV for the white!

Clearly, these aren’t things you can recommend to the designated driver, but they are still well worth having in your oenological arsenal.

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Those are the key things most wine drinkers will find useful to know about low- and no-alcohol wines. Of course, as with anything in wine, there are ifs, buts, exceptions and anomalies, but if you think this might be of use to your customers or staff, feel free to share this post around as you see fit.