NZ Lighter: Naturally Lower Alcohol Wine
November 19, 2019
I recently visited the beautiful Marlborough region of NZ to meet the winemakers creating naturally lower alcohol wine. When I was invited I must admit I was somewhat sceptical. I have had lower alcohol wine before and never been terribly impressed. I'm pleased to report that this time I was.

While most lower alcohol wines have undergone a process to remove alcohol from the wine after making - a process appropriately named de-alcoholising. Although different processes are used to achieve this, unfortunately they not only remove almost all of the alcohol, but the phenolic and other compounds that give wine its' flavour and aroma. They have never really hit the mark for this reason. 

New Zealand wine makers have taken a different approach as part of a collaborative project NZ Lighter Wines. Importantly these are not zero alcohol wines, rather they are up to 30% lower in alcohol than regular wines. That's a pretty big difference however and while you'll still have to be careful about how much you consume, particularly if you're the driver of course, but also for health, the big reduction in alcohol is impressive. The real question though is how did they taste? 

On day one they set up a blind tasting session where we tasted three similar wines (either two regular and one Lighter or one regular and two Lighter) and had to guess which was or were the lighter wine(s). The result? None of us in the group could pick it! We could certainly taste differences between the wines for most varieties, but it was mighty difficult to pick which wines had less alcohol.



For wine lovers - and I confess to being one - this is the ultimate test. As a health professional I am equally as pleased. Too much alcohol is clearly not good for us, so quality wines that tastes just like quality wine wth the bonus of less alcohol is a win.

So,  how do they do it? It's more complex than I can easily explain back to you. One of the winemakers Dr John Forrest (pictured below), with a past life as a doctor working in medical research, applied his scientific knowledge to the art of winemaking. The crux of the process was to produce grapes with less sugar but all the flavour compounds, meaning there is less sugar to ferment to alcohol and a naturally lower alcohol wine as a result. 





The Doctors' wines from Forrest Wines

Where to buy?

You can view the full range of NZ Lighter here. For those of you in Australia the following list is where to find those currently available in our local stores:

 
Constellation Brands:
  • In Session with Crafters Union – Sauvignon Blanc – available at Dan Murphy's and BWS
  • In Session with Crafters Union – Pinot Gris – available at Dan Murphy's and BWS
  • In Session with Crafters Union – Rosé – available at Dan Murphy's and BWS
  • People’s Sessions – Sauvignon Blanc – available at First Choice and Liquorland
  • People’s Sessions – Pinot Gris – available at First Choice and Liquorland
  • People’s Sessions – Rosé – available at First Choice and Liquorland
 
Giesen:
  • Giesen Pure Light – Sauvignon Blanc – available at Dan Murphy’s
  • Giesen Pure Light – Pinot Gris – available at Dan Murphy’s
 
Yealands Wines:
  • Peter Yealands – Sauvignon Blanc – available at Dan Murphy’s
 
Pernod Ricard:
  • Stoneleigh Bright – Pinot Gris – available at BWS
  • Stoneleigh Bright – Rosé – available at BWS
  • Brancott Estate Flight – Sauvignon Blanc – available at Dan Murphy’s
  • Brancott Estate Flight – Rosé – available at Dan Murphy’s
  • Brancott Estate Flight – Pinot Gris – available at Dan Murphy’s
 
Forrest Wines:
  • The Doctors' – Sauvignon Blanc – only available at Laithwaite’s Wine People
  • The Doctors' – Riesling – only available at Laithwaite’s Wine People
  • The Doctors' – Rosé – only available at Laithwaite’s Wine People
  • The Doctors' – Pinot Noir – only available at Laithwaite’s Wine People


More?