Low alcohol wines are all the rage in Australia, and for good reason. They offer a way to enjoy wine for the health-conscious drinker while minimising the negative effects of booze. But are low alcohol wines really as good as they seem?
In this blog post, we'll explore the pros and cons of low alcohol wines. We'll also take a look at some of the issues with wines explicitly marketed as low calorie and low alcohol, and we'll give some tips on where to find the best low alcohol wine.
We'll also take a brief look at alcohol free wine and explain why it's not such a healthy option.
What is low alcohol wine?
There is unfortunately no clear definition of when wine becomes "low alcohol." If we want to talk quite generally, one could say that low alcohol red wines would be below 13% alcohol, with low alcohol white wines being below 12%. But this is an oversimplification, and as you'll soon see, the bigger picture is more complicated and nuanced.
When it comes to alcohol content in wine, context matters
Alcohol contents of wine are all relative and depend on grape variety, region, and style.
Grape variety is probably the #1 factor. For example, a Shiraz might be considered low alcohol at 13.5%, while that would be seen as very high for a Sauvignon Blanc, most of which are 11.5-13%.
Region and climate
Region and climate also play a role, with elevation and temperature being key metrics. A Shiraz from the Barossa Valley will generally have higher alcohol than one from a cooler region like Saint Joseph in France.
Finally, wine style is a factor. A classic example of a Pinot Gris from Alsace, France will usually have higher alcohol than a Pinot Gris from Mornington Peninsula.
Not because Alsace is warmer than Mornington, but because in Alsace the winemakers aim to make a richer style of wine and more fruity aromas, while winemakers in the Mornington Peninsula generally tend to make lighter, crisper styles of Pinot Gris.
What are the benefits of low alcohol wine?
Alcohol is a toxin that is harmful to a person's health in a myriad of different ways, and your liver will thank you for drinking less of it. One way of achieving our goal of drinking less is to reduce the alcohol content of the wine we drink.
If you enjoy a glass of Pinot Noir at night while relaxing, it makes a difference if that Pinot Noir is 14% or 12% alcohol. That two percent difference might not sound like a lot, but it can add up over time.
What are the drawbacks of low alcohol wine?
If a wine is balanced and well made and happens to be low alcohol, there really aren't any drawbacks. The problem arises when winemakers harvest grapes too early in an attempt to make lower alcohol wine.
Unripe grapes simply haven't developed enough flavour yet, so the resulting wine will be pretty one-dimensional compared to what it could've been if the grapes were allowed to ripen properly.
Alcohol is also a key part of a wine's structure, and wines whose alcohol content is too low can taste thin and unbalanced.
How about these low-alcohol wines I see at the bottle shop?
There is a genuine demand in lower alcohol wines in Australia as a healthier alternative. Unfortunately, many wines now being marketed as "low-alcohol" are often made from under-ripe and lower-quality grapes, resulting in a wine that meets the low-alcohol claim while compromising on quality.
These wines are often made using cultured yeasts specifically bred (and often genetically modified) to produce lower-alcohol wine, rather than wild yeasts used in natural wines, and may have been subjected to industrial processes such as reverse osmosis to remove alcohol, leaving them with a thin and unbalanced taste.
Adding to this, low-alcohol wines can also be high in sugar since all the alcohol in the grape juice wasn't fermented in order to keep the alcohol level low. Decreasing your alcohol intake might not necessarily reduce health risks when the sugar intake is increased.
In summary, low-alcohol wine may have low ABV (sometimes as low as 5%) but these are not necessarily quality products, and could be seen as an attempt to capitalise on the demand for healthier alternatives by unsuspecting wine lovers.
What about low-calorie wines?
Low-calorie wines that are marketed as such may seem like a great option for those trying to stay fit and healthy, but the reality is that all dry wines tend to be low in calories. The carbs in alcoholic beverages are often what lead to weight gain, not the alcohol content itself. So while low-alcohol wines can offer a lower amount of alcohol per serving, they don't necessarily offer the low-calorie benefits that are often marketed by these wines. Furthermore, low-alcohol wines usually come with a tradeoff - they can be overly sweet due to residual sugar, and this decreases their overall quality. Or, they can be sugar free and low alcohol, however both often come at the cost of quality.
So where can I buy lower alcohol wine that's actually good?
At Feravina, we specialise in wines for health-conscious drinkers. We believe that if you're buying wine, you want to enjoy it, and so quality is paramount.
This is why we offer high-quality natural wines that are naturally lower in alcohol (capped at 13.5% ABV) and sugar-free, without compromising quality using any industrial methods described above. It's wine as it should be - full of life and flavour, made by passionate winemakers with care and attention. Try our low-alcohol wines here.
Also, good quality natural wine that is lower in alcohol can be found at many independent bottle shops in any major city.
Alcohol level luckily is displayed on every bottle, so just have a look next time and compare the ABVs of a few wines you're considering.
Generally, though, white wines like Sauvignon Blanc will have lower alcohol than red wines like Shiraz. Also, sparkling wine tends to be lower in alcohol, especially sparkling wine labelled as blanc de blancs. And if you're wanting to find wines that are lower in calories, read our calories in wine guide here to help you choose.
A quick note on alcohol-free wines
If you're looking for low-alcohol options, it might be tempting to reach for non alcoholic wine. However, these low-ABV beverages aren't always the healthiest option. Non alcoholic wines are typically mass-produced with low-quality grapes and often include added sugar, gums, and other additives in order to make up for low alcohol content. If you're looking to go booze free, opt for healthier non alcoholic alternatives like freshly squeezed lemon, mint or cucumber in soda (or a combination of all of those... give it a try!).
The final word on low-alcohol wine
With more and more consumers seeking to reduce their alcohol intake, low-alcohol wines are becoming increasingly popular. But not all low-alcohol wines are created equal - many mass-produced brands attempt to capitalise on this trend by rebranding low-quality wine as low in calories or low in alcohol.
Fortunately, there are plenty of high-quality lower alcohol wines out there if you know where to look. At Feravina, we source only the best lower alcohol wines from around the world. Our organic/biodynamic, natural and low sulphur options are low in sugar, keto-friendly and even vegan-friendly. So if you're looking for a low-alcohol alternative without compromising on quality, look no further than Feravina! Mix and match your own selection or go for one of our ready-made packs today - enjoy with confidence that you are drinking better.
And remember — low alcohol doesn’t have to mean low quality!