The best lower alcohol wines to enjoy this Christmas

Having had the ‘pleasure’ and I use the term very loosely, of tasting a wide range of low and no alcohol wines when I was doing my wine exams, I can, hand on heart say ‘alcohol free’(<0.05% ABV) and ‘low’ alcohol wines (1.2% ABV and under) are not (in my opinion at least) very good!  The problem is, take out the alcohol and you leave something of a gaping hole in the wine – it is unbalanced, lacks body and textures and as such feels thin. Even ‘reduced alcohol’ ie wines with ABV’s of 1.2%-5.5% struggle to balance mouthfeel and flavour and usually residual sugar takes the place of the alcohol.

I tend to steer clear of those which have been dealcoholized, these aren’t really wines in my opinion and have been fiddled with just a bit too much for my liking. But that is not to say they aren’t drinkable – if you don’t mind a bit of sugar. More and more are on the market – the best I have tasted is the Torres Natureo Alcohol Free Muscat White Wine – the grapey Muscat ensuring the wine has a pleasant fruitiness.  Of the bigger names: Friexenet 0.00% Alcohol free  and Leitz Eins Zwei Zero are widely available – but as with all wines in this style – they will have a noticeable sweetness to cover for the lack of alcohol.

For the basis of this blog I am looking at what I call ‘lower alcohol’ wines (of 11.5% of less), by which I am talking ‘proper wines’, not those that have been artificially manipulated to remove the alcohol.

One producer I can heartily recommend is Forrest Wines. This Kiwi producer is something of a genius when it comes to producing full flavoured, quality white and red wines with lower alcohol levels. “The Doctor’s” range is fabulous. His Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé come in at 9.5% and his Riesling is an even lower 9%. Even more remarkably he produces a Pinot Noir that is only 9.5% too. These are readily available on the High Street.

Brancott Estate, another Kiwi producer (innovative lot these Kiwis!) has a range called “Flight” – a Sauvignon and Pinot Gris both coming in at 9%.  Full flavour with less of the alcohol.

Certain grape varieties (Riesling is one, Muscat is another) and certain wine styles lead themselves naturally to lower alcohol.  One of the most popular wines of my recent wine club cases was the Aussie Dandelion Vineyards Riesling – this is bone dry and comes in at 11.5% (the new vintage is 11%). You will also find many off-dry and medium-sweet German Rieslings that come in around the 8-9% ABV.

Innocent Bystander Moscato and the terrific Doctors Sauvignon!

Sweet wines are usually lower in alcohol too because the sugar remains in the wine and isn’t converted into alcohol – either because the fermentation was stopped early, or because the yeast dies because the environment is just too sugary for it to do its conversion work. Dessert wines – ie late harvest wines affected by Botrytis or Icewines often come in around the 9% to 9.5% ABV mark.

For those with a sweet tooth – the Innocent Bystander Moscato is a good choice.  The bottle looks fabulous and the wine is only 5.5% ABV, and it has got a bit of spritz too.

So, there you have it, a few options for those of you who are having to drive home after the festivities and still want to partake in a glass of something.  Enjoy!

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