The no-low science bit

08 February, 2018

Which markets are most responsive to these wines? “The Natureo wines are especially appreciated in the more mature markets – mostly northern Europe – where we have seen a trend for wines that have practically no alcohol,” says Kamuller. “These consumers probably think – just like we – that wine is the perfect companion with food and don’t want to give up on that. They all seem to realise that a de-alcoholised wine does not really compete with ‘normal’ wine – it competes with the alternatives you have, when you can’t drink ‘normal’ wine. For example, when you have to drive, your alternatives are water, juice, soft drinks and so on. With our Mediterranean roots we still think that the ideal match for good food is regular wine with alcohol. But when this is not possible, the de-alcoholised wines do a great job.”

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Another successful brand has been Rawson’s Retreat from Treasury Wine Estates in Australia. Winemaker Patrick Connors explains that the two wines, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Semillon/Chardonnay (both 0.5% alcohol) start life as the Rawson’s Retreat full-strength wines, which are then de-alcoholised using spinning cone technology. They are then de-acidified, because the acid has been concentrated in the process of removing the alcohol, as have colour and tannins. “Prior to de-alcoholising we, for example, start with 45,000 litres,” says Connors. “By the end of the process we only have approximately 33,000 litres remaining. The 12,000-litre variance is basically some of the natural water content and alcohol in grapes/wine but at an increased alcohol percentage, commonly referred to as ‘strip water’.

“The strip water is sent to another company and is distilled to make grape spirit, which is then used when fortifying our ports and sherries.” The final stage is to use some fining agents and grape juice concentrate to balance the acidity and sweetness of the final product. ‘The challenges are balancing the acid sugar levels as the de-alcing process concentrates all of the analytical compounds including acid and tannins in particular.”

Treasury’s Peter English reports that the wines are doing very well in the UK. “The Rawson’s range is listed in Tesco and we struggled to keep up for demand for a while. It’s also going into Asda from January.” He adds: “In terms of Europe, the majority of the European countries are seeing a decrease in alcohol consumption. The total average went down from 10.6 litres of pure alcohol per person between 2000-2005 to 9.8 litres between 2011 and 2016. Sweden is our biggest market for Rawsons where we are number one in the category with 13% share of volume.”

Another successful Australian no-low brand is Edenvale. “For non-intoxicating (0.5%abv) wines, the challenge is to deliver a real wine experience to consumers, by retaining flavours and the true varietal definition when the alcohol is removed,” says Michael Bright, director of Edenvale Wines. “Alcohol contributes significantly to the mouthfeel, bouquet, and flavour of wines, both red and white. Some of the aroma fractions in the grape varietal profile are closely aligned to that of alcohol, and you can lose some of these fractions when taking off the alcohol. The flavour contribution is replaced by trying to heighten the aromas and flavours that are retained once the alcohol is removed. Amplifying the varietal cues people associate with certain varietals and wine styles is critical.”

They have seen good growth of these wines in the traditional wine-drinking markets. “These markets are very accepting of alcohol-removed wines,” says Bright. Andrew Turner, director of wine for Eisberg Alcohol Free Wine (the UK’s largest no-lo brand), agrees. “The market for low and no-alcohol is thriving. Research shows that 21% of people in the UK are choosing not to drink at all and one in four are cutting down or taking a more moderate approach to drinking. As a result, consumers are increasingly on the lookout for quality alcohol-free options that don’t compromise on taste and fit the bill for any occasion.” So it seems that when these technically challenging wines are made well, there is a market for them. And it’s one that looks set to grow.





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David Williams

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