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Low Alcohol Wine: The Healthy New Trend?

Updated on August 08, 2014

Low Alcohol Wine - Trendy and Acceptable or Not?

More and more European winemakers are starting to look into the idea of making "lighter" wines -- with 3% to 6% less alcohol content than traditional varieties.

As you can imagine, the wine snobs are turning up their noses at them, but is that fair?

Experts say that such low-alcohol wines taste the same as higher "octane" wines, yet might be healthier for us -- all the fun of a glass of wine, but with less alcohol.

Should we be embracing it by giving it a chance or not?

Definition for Low Alcohol Wine

United States Patent 4902518

A method for the production of low alcohol wine comprising separating a fruit juice into a high sugar fraction and a low sugar fraction, stripping volatile components, such as high-boiling point esters, from the fruit juice or from the high sugar fraction and adding them to the low sugar fraction, and fermenting the low sugar fraction. A preferred method of separating the fruit juice into high and low sugar fractions is by fractional crystallization.

Light Wines - Ideal for Summer Drinking

Light, fruity wines that are low in alcohol are ideal summer wines and a trademark of German winemakers, whose vineyards are among the most northerly in the world, and where conditions for producing light wines are ideal.

High altitude south facing slopes enable a longer growing season, so flavours are greatly enhanced while sugars are not excessive.

According to Ernst Büscher of the German Wine Institute in Mainz:

"In Germany's wine-growing regions, grapes have a very long time to ripen and develop considerable aromas and flavors. Even though they are relatively low in alcohol (less than 12 percent by volume), the wines are rich in flavour, with a pleasant play of refreshing, fruity acidity and typical varietal aromas."

Ernst Büscher

Light Wines

Germany's white wine varietals are particularly well-suited for light wines. A traditional Riesling Kabinett, or even a young Pinot Blanc or Rivaner, is really a pleasure on a mild summer evening.

Red wine fans won't go empty-handed - Trollinger wines from Wttemberg or young Portugieser from Rheinhessen or the Pfalz are also tasty, light summer wines, particularly if served slightly chilled.

Although most red wines are generally somewhat more full-bodied, not least due to their naturally higher tannin content, other red variations often offer a lighter alternative. "Blanc de Noirs" - red wine vinified with little skin contact and thus little colour - is especially popular these days. Thanks to the way they are produced, these red variant wines combine the fresh character of white wines with the mouth-filling flavour of red varietals.

The various "Seccos" produced in German cellars - often, with less than 11 percent alcohol by volume - are also ideal summer aperitifs. Their carbon dioxide lends them a refreshing, light effervescence.

Light Wines with Light Cuisine

Light wines are also in tune with today's trend toward healthier eating. They are excellent with low calorie, light cuisine, such as salads or menus featuring lots of vegetables.

"Light wines that are relatively low in alcohol (ca. 11-12 percent by volume) are by far the best partners with very spicy dishes. High alcohol intensifies spiciness on the palate."

Ernst Büscher

Off-dry wines, such as Riesling, subdue the heat of spices and Riesling's fruity acidity lends a pleasant freshness to most dishes. Mildly seasoned, stir-fried vegetables and fish go well with light Weiss- or Grauburgunder (Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris).

Served Chilled

All wines taste better in the summer, if they are served a few degrees cooler than they would be in winter. Once poured, a wine warms up within a very short time - up to 3°C (37°F). As such, it's best to serve a wine somewhat chilled. On warm days, white wines and Seccos should be chilled to 6-8°C (43-46°F), and red variants are ready for drinking when served at about 10C (50F). 10-12C (50-54F) would be about right for a chilled Trollinger.

Storage

Light wines are best consumed while young and fresh, when their fruity aromas are most pronounced. They are seldom suited for cellar aging of more than two or three years. One exception, though: Rieslings, such as those from the Mosel. Even the lighter versions are still a true pleasure after several years of aging.

Wines for the Calorie Conscious

Low alcohol wine is just the ticket

In general a glass of wine has fewer calories than a glass of whisky, rum or vodka. Within the realm of wines, some have lower calories than others, but there isn't really a category called 'low calorie wine'. However, wines with lower alcohol levels do have fewer calories than those with higher levels.

Alcohol in wine is produced during the wine making process when the sugars in the grape ferment to alcohol. Therefore, less sugar to convert, means less alcohol in the resultant wine.

Wine companies around the world, in an attempt to meet the demands of the increasingly calorie conscious customers especially women who tend to be weight-watchers, are now manipulating the wine making process. So now wines are being produced with alcohol levels at 10% abv or less, as against wines that would normally be up to 13% - 14% abv. This can be done by picking the grapes early during harvest or by growing grapes in cooler regions or climates, both of which slows down the development of sugar in grapes.

So, a dry wine, and relatively low in alcohol will be your best bet for a low calorie intake. Excellent examples of such wines are:

WHITE

  • Ulrich Langguth Riesling, 10% abv. - Germany
  • Domaine Hemelin Chablis, 12% abv. - France
  • Dezzani Asti Spumante, 7.5% abv. - Italy
  • Luna Argenta Prosecco, 11% abv. - Italy
  • Grandial Blanc de Blanc, 11% abv. - France

RED

  • Bardolino, 11.5% abv. - Italy
  • George du Boeuf Beaujolais Villages, 12.5% abv. - France

The label must always carry the alcohol content in the bottle, so look out for it.

Many Consumers Prefer Low Alcohol Wines

As the global market sees a continual rise in the strength of wine, the reaction is growing in direct proportion. Many consumers favour wines at 13% or below and technology appears to be accommodating these desires.

Reduced alcohol wines have all but disappeared from the U.S. market and were never an issue in Canada or the U.K. where climatic conditions naturally favoured moderate alcohol levels. The emerging leader in this market sector appears to be France, which is now exporting wines from the south at levels reduced to 9-11% using new technologies.

The new technologies employ putting finished wine through reverse osmosis or using spinning cone technology to separate out the alcohol and adjust it to more desirable levels.

Do these high-tech wines really compete with higher alcohol wines made in traditional ways? A blind tasting conducted by the French National Institute for Agronomic Research showed that tests on more than 1,000 people demonstrated that producers could reduce the alcohol content by up to three percentage points without an ordinary drinker noticing.

More info on low alcohol wine

Low Alcohol Wine Poll

What are Your Thoughts on Low Alcohol Wine?

See results

Higher Alcohol Levels Caused by Global Warming

More heat = more alcohol

Director of the wine unit at the French National Institute for Agronomic Research, Jean-Louis Escudier says,

"There has been an increase of 2-3% in alcohol content in wines from southern France, Italy and Spain over the past 15 years."

  • A standard bottle used to contain 11% or 12% alcohol, now 13% or 14% is common.
  • The main reason is global warming, which results in riper grapes, with higher sugar levels - which gives rise after fermentation to more alcohol.
  • This has been compounded by a tendency for vineyards to plant grape varieties that produce more sugar, in an attempt to meet the perceived international demand for sweet, fruity wines.
  • Improved winemaking techniques also enable producers to harvest later, ensuring riper grapes.
  • Another reason for the trend lay in yield reductions, which tended to foster more concentrated and therefore alcoholic wines.

How Do You Reduce Alcohol In Wine?

How do you make a wine that is dry but has less alcohol in it?

  1. You can do it "naturally" in the vineyard, by choosing grape varieties and clones with care, growing them in cooler sites and picking while sugar levels are still low. In other words, by producing grapes that will make a wine that simply is lower in alcohol.
  2. There are a few ways of doing this in the winery.
    • One technique is known as reverse osmosis. The wine is passed through a filtration system that removes a mixture of water and alcohol. This is then distilled, to rid it of some alcohol, and the remaining liquid is reunited with the wine from which it was removed. This lower alcohol wine can then be blended back into the main body of wine to dilute its strength.
    • Another system involves a giant steel construction that feeds the wine over a series of spinning cones and uses evaporation to strip the alcohol out of it.

Click on the image below to see a flash demo of reverse osmosis.

In 2010, the World Cancer Research Fund was urging those drinkers keen on wine to try 10% abv wines rather than the usual 12-14% abv.

The experts said that if everyone switched over to lower alcohol drinks, hundreds of cases of cancer could be prevented. Anyone drinking a large glass of wine daily, could minimise their risk of developing breast cancer or bowel cancer, by a staggering 7% - and that's just by reducing from 14% to 10%.

A reduction in other cancers resulting from alcohol, such as throat, voicebox, liver and mouth could also be achieved by switching.

Remember that sweeter wines are often weaker as less of the sugar has been converted into alcohol.

Image by Erik Anestad

Great info on Wines And Winemaking

Please Leave Your Mark With a Comment - Cheers and bottoms up!

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    • profile image

      TLC33 7 years ago

      Great topical subject, and one that will be addressed more in the future, I'm sure. Love your wine lenses, and always learn a lot, many thanks. 5 stars!

    • profile image

      janester 7 years ago

      You should check out Adnams Cellar and Kitchen. They've just added abv's to the wines on their site. Just click filter to sort by alcohol by volume. http://cellarandkitchen.adnams.co.uk

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I have been wondering whether (low) alcoholic fruit juice can be prepared

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I have recently been ill and am on medication which cannot tolerate alcohol, and as I love wine I began looking for alternatives. I have found that dealcoholised wine has all the lovely flavour of wine but without the alcohol content. I can now enjoy my wine with everyone else and don't feel that I am 'missing out'. Try it - I'm sure you will feel the same.

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      RuthCoffee 6 years ago

      All kinds of interesting info here. I had no idea the alcohol content in wine had crept up in recent years.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 6 years ago

      I never worry about calories, but alcohol affects insulin levels which in turn cause the body to store fat. Low alcohol wines are appealing to many consumers, and I'm glad to see more of them on the market.

    • jolou profile image

      jolou 6 years ago

      I like wine, particularly white wines.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 5 years ago

      Interesting concept, but I don't drink enough wine to know

    • stefanruse profile image

      stefanruse 5 years ago

      I never tried such Fine Wine , but I will definitely taste some after reading this great lens. Well, of course that low alcohol drink is better for your health, but I am not sure what the taste of such wine will be. I will try to share again my opinion. Thank you for uncovering another wine secret for me. Cheers.

    • pheonix76 profile image

      pheonix76 5 years ago from WNY

      I have never had low-alcohol wine, but definitely would like to try it! I do enjoy wine from time to time, and would like a lower-calorie option. :) Very informative lens and excellent use of a reverse osmosis diagram!!!!

    • phoenix arizona f profile image

      phoenix arizona f 5 years ago

      Of course it's acceptable! Take my calories do NOT take my beverage!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      There is no question, that by removing alcohol you also remove flavour, so why are wine producers starting to do this? The reason is the demand from powerful supermarkets for low alcohol or reduced alcohol wines. If these supermarkets are requesting this, they must have good reason to do so, i.e. the public must be demanding it of them. wine refrigerator

    • livetech lm profile image

      livetech lm 5 years ago

      I agree with David below, if alcohol is removed then flavour naturally will be removed! Great lens any who. Feel free to check out my lens about French Red Wines! http://www.squidoo.com/french-red-wines, Thank you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Love your lense. Specially I am a wine & party lover. So best for the people like us. Like French wine most :)

      -polycarbonate drinkware

    • MariaMontgomery profile image

      MariaMontgomery 5 years ago from Central Florida, USA

      Another lens to bookmark.

    • SaintFrantic profile image

      SaintFrantic 5 years ago

      Thanks.I didn't know that.

    • profile image

      nelsonkana 5 years ago

      wow. Really interesting to know the exact percentage of alcohol we take in when drinking certain kinds of wine. Great lens here

    • profile image

      leeleon 5 years ago

      In my opinion, less alcohol content in wine, we can be more healthier .

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 5 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      This is a wonderful lens and I am recommending that it receives a purple star. Our area is producing a very tasty ice wine that I just love. It is expensive but a sip of that wine is sometimes all you need for dessert.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I would love to try low alcohol wine, I had no idea it existed, but am going to ask for it now :)

    • profile image

      poutine 5 years ago

      The less the better in this case.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great info here Rob, well done

    • profile image

      JimDickens 5 years ago

      I will take my resveratrol without the wine, thank you

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      This article was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last week. press release writing services

    • profile image

      jlochicago 4 years ago

      I've also noticed that quantity of wine seems to be increasing. Before it used to be around 5 ounces and now I often get 6-7 ounces of wine. Having a lighter wine would really help the blood alcohol content. Who wants to leave when you have wine left glass?

    • ClassyGals profile image

      Cynthia Davis 4 years ago from Pittsburgh

      Angel Blessings** Cheers.

    • squid-pinkchic18 profile image

      squid-pinkchic18 4 years ago

      Wonderful information here! i always learn so much from your lenses. Please keep them coming :)

    • profile image

      antoniow 4 years ago

      Great lens, well done! Squidlike

    • kevin-collins profile image

      kevin-collins 4 years ago

      Awesome information on low alcohol wines. I definitely like the more fruity and lighter varieties in the summer. Bolder flavors are better in the winter though. Thanks for creating such a great lens!

    • Fishtilt profile image

      Fishtilt 4 years ago

      Hey man I love the page and it's really helpful too, so I'm gonna squidlike it. I made one about how many calories are in various alcohols including different strength wines, beers, ciders, spirits, cocktails etc. Take a look if you get time. (http://www.squidoo.com/how-many-calories-are-in-yo...

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I did not know about low-alcohol wine until reading your lens. Sounds like a healthy choice! Thanks for sharing this lens with us.

    • profile image

      SamanthaCollins128 4 years ago

      Interesting and informative lens. I heard about low alcohol wines in my

      RSA Melbourne training and now I know more about it because of this lens. Thanks for sharing.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 4 years ago

      Nice lens Rob. I am all for less alcohol although I don't tpich it myself. Featured on Blessed by Skiesgreen 2012-2 and also on Drugs Trafficking Couriers and Mules. Hugs

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Geat lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Much fewer accidents here too since they are allowing less alcohol. With the Wines I am not sure what is happening really think they are still growing the same kind which gives a lot of alcohol.

    • profile image

      winestomp 4 years ago

      Great lens. I happen to like the George du Boeuf Beaujolais Villages mentioned above.

    • NotYetWed LM profile image

      NotYetWed LM 4 years ago

      great lens! less alcohol with more taste!

    • profile image

      sailor_man 4 years ago

      This lens is pretty cool and I'm happy to look at my

    • profile image

      JoshK47 4 years ago

      Very interesting! I'd not heard of low alcohol wine.

    • profile image

      sailor_man 4 years ago

      I return visit and recommend for other lenses

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 4 years ago

      Thanks for the information about Low Alcohol Wine.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I'd try it, I love Red wine if I could get a bottle of low alcohol red wine I'd be chuffed.

    • victoriahaneveer profile image

      victoriahaneveer 4 years ago

      I'd try it but I'd be concerned about lack of flavor. I think the balance might be disrupted. I'm always happy to try a new wine though.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      low alcohol? but does it have the same kick?

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 4 years ago

      A new blessing on this lovely lens and may you have a wonderful, successful and happy 2013. Hugs

    • ItsTimeToBurn profile image

      ItsTimeToBurn 4 years ago

      Good info. I'm going to try it!

    • geosum profile image

      geosum 3 years ago

      I'll add some to my low-carb diet.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is wine time for us and am enjoying reading your lens. Wine is really good with company.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      How interesting you have made learning about what causes alcohol levels in wine and that it really is a wise choice for wine drinkers to go with the lower % in cancer prevention from alcohol use...and I don't think anyone will miss the 3-6% difference.....I do enjoy wine and now I'll know a little more about it...as always, very nicely done sir!

    • GardenerDon profile image

      Gardener Don 3 years ago

      The theory of recent higher alcohol content being a result of global warming => higher sugar content in the grapes is bit "out there" - or was that a joke? (Maybe you can tell I don't buy into this global warming stuff - I just came through a 7 month winter - aint no global warming in these parts!)

    • katiecolette profile image

      katiecolette 3 years ago

      I grew up in Europe, and I remember learning that a good wine should contain no more than 6-6.5% alcohol. I rarely drink stronger wines - they give me headaches... Wine with low alcohol content is the best!

    • profile image

      cancerfunds1 3 years ago

      A bit every night after dinner would be good for health, but just don't over do it. http://CancerFunds.org

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      That cancer link is new to me, but since I don't imbibe in alcoholic drinks maybe it just passed through me as I enjoyed the labels and ate the grapes.

    • chrisilouwho profile image

      chrisilouwho 3 years ago

      interesting, I haven't heard of this before

    • AlanJC321 profile image

      AlanJC321 2 years ago

      Thanks for the interesting read. I didn't know a lot of this. Cheers!

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