jamie goode's wine blog

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Reduced alcohol wines: time for a new category?

Today in London there's a forum on low alcohol wines. Technology such as the spinning cone and reverse osmosis mean that it's now possible to reduce the alcohol level of finished wines without damaging the wine flavours all that badly. And with the recent media push towards lower alcohol wines, could we be seeing the birth of a new category of wine here, with reduced levels of alcohol?

One of the leading companies operating in this area is called TFC Wines, who already have a low alcohol wine called Sovio on the market. It's a 5.5% Sparkling White Zinfandel, which can't legally be called wine (it's described as 'made with White Zinfandel'), and it's 4.99 in Tesco.

Perhaps more interesting to wine lovers are their other wines, which have alcohol contents of 8, 9 and 11%. I've met with their winemakers and tried their wines, and come away quite impressed.

There's also a French producer, Domaines Auriol, who have recently launched a range of three wines from the Languedoc at 9% alcohol. Here, a modified form of reverse osmosis has been used to bring the alcohol levels down.

While techniques that reduce alcohol in a finished wine seem quite manipulative, the results are much better than those obtained by picking grapes very early, which is used for some of the lower alcohol wines found on supermarket shelves.

I wrote quite a long piece on this for Wine Business International. An updated version of this, with some new material, is available here.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Mollydooker The Maitre D'

A while back I reported my own experiences with two wines from the much talked about Mollydooker range (the post is here). I was a bit negative about them. They were 16% alcohol, yet not particularly 'hedonistic' - at least if you are making table wines that have such extreme alcohol levels, you want them to pack a flavour punch.

Tonight I'm drinking another Mollydooker: the Maitre D' 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon. A blend of grapes from three South Australian regions, this is a lot better than I remember the last two being. Weighing in at 15.5% alcohol, it would be *so* convenient to be able to dismiss this as an absurd expression of late-picked, over-ripe Australian wine.

But while this isn't my favoured style, it's actually well done (does this sound condescending? It's not meant to), with plenty of Cabernet character and the sweet, almost Porty fruit filling in the mid-palate nicely. [Aside: one of the problems with South Australian Cabernet can be the mid-palate; here, there's richness to offset that.] This isn't the direction that I think the Aussie wine industry should be going en masse, and it's not a wine I'll be seeking out, but I will state here that it's quite a satisfying, more-ish sort of wine. 10.99, imported by Seckford Wine Agencies.

There's room for different wine styles.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Yeast rocks

Nice piece in New Scientist today about brewer's yeast:

Some time in the distant past Saccharomyces cerevisiae, to give it its full name, developed a chemical trick that would transform human societies. Some anthropologists have argued that the desire for alcohol was what persuaded our ancestors to become farmers and so led to the birth of civilisation. Whether that's true of not, alcohol has had a huge influence on our history and our
prehistory.
I'm not sure I agree with the last paragraph, where it implies that there's s selective advantage for Asian populations to carry mutant ALDH2, which reduces their ability to clear acetaldehyde, produced by the metabolism of alcohol. Acetaldehyde is a nasty molecule that acts as a carcinogen: there's a good incentive for clearing it as fast as possible. It's more likely that Asian populations, which have enjoyed teas as their traditional beverage rather than beer and wine, haven't had the same selective pressure on them to metabolize acetaldehyde as efficiently.

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