Lower-Alcohol Wines Trending

lower alcohol wines trendingSummertime drives lighter fares – think fresh produce and crisp wines. Now, lower-alcohol wines are trending as well. Lower-alcohol wines are more subtle than their bold, high-alcohol counterparts, but a more subtle flavor is only part of what’s driving the trend.

Cost and Calories

Cost and calories are two factors that are driving a push toward lighter wines. Consumers who are becoming the new batch of wine aficionados are watching their spending more closely, and therefore, looking for an enjoyable wine at a lower price point. The grapes are one of the drivers of cost.

Wine writer, Katherine Cole (quoted in NPR’sThe Secret’s in the Sugar: Lower-Alcohol Wines Are Taking Off”) said, “Higher-alcohol wines can cost more because they’re made from grapevines that have been pruned down to squeeze the highest concentration of flavor from each berry. And the cost of the labor behind this intensive technique can add up.”

Along those lines, Portuguese winemakers don’t do as much pruning and labor-intense work in the vineyard, and the result is a lower-alcohol and less expensive wine than the French typically produce.

Another wine writer, Dave McIntyre, suggests that wine companies are purposefully creating lower-alcohol wines to appeal to those counting calories. The popularity of Skinnygirl® Cocktails and The Skinny Vine underscores that thinking. Skinny Vine attributes its refreshing style to grapes picked at the peak of ripeness and winemaking style that creates “full flavor with fewer calories perfect for the ‘ahhh’ moment at the end of the day.”

Alcohol Content

For years, winemakers created bolder and bolder wines with alcohol contents that were pushing 14 to 15 percent or even higher. The lower-alcohol content wines have about 9 to 11 percent alcohol with The Skinny Vine registering 7.5 percent. Fermentation of sugar drives the alcohol content, so some winemakers are opting for grapes with lower concentrations of sugar to start.

One way to achieve that is by picking grapes that are barely ripe. Portugal’s Vihno Verde, Txakolina from Spain’s Basque region and Rieslings from Germany all fall into this category. Another way to keep the alcohol lower in a wine is to halt the fermentation process, keeping more sugar in the wine. Moscato wines have a distinct sweetness as a result of this process and are growing in popularity.

Lower-alcohol content wines may fare well in a tasting; however, they don’t always pair with food very well. Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, wine and food writes is quoted in The Splendid Table’sThe lowdown on low-alcohol wines” regarding bold, high-alcohol wines and food: “These wines show so well in a giant tasting, but they do not show so well at your table. You put one of these cabernet sauvignons next to a roast lamb dish, and it’s just like putting Godzilla at the table with Bambi – just smash, crash, bam. You don’t get to taste what you’re eating; it’s too much alcohol.”

With lower-alcohol wines trending, and doing so in a way that suggests they’ll be favored for quite a while, adding them to your wine list is a smart move.