The new year can be relied upon to bring with it a whole host of good intentions – but one that seems to pop up on everyone’s must-do-better list is alcohol. Whether you want to reduce your intake, be more mindful or eventually aim to cut it out altogether, these low-alcohol wine varieties could help to ease you in gently.
The drinking landscape has certainly changed from a decade ago, with many millennials now turning their back on boozy nights out in favour of more wholesome activities. It’s been widely reported that around 25 per cent of young adults are now turning their back on drinking altogether.
It’s certainly not just the younger generation abstaining though. As a nation, we’re much more clued up on the benefits of limiting our intake. As well as forgoing the groggy head, a reduction in alcohol often means fewer calories, so you’ll be doing your waistline a favour too. Making the switch to these tipples means your alcohol intake would be vastly reduced (without you actually having to drink less). You’ll barely notice the difference, while still feeling like you’re “keeping up” with everyone else – a no brainer, we think.
If this inspires (or shames!) you into following suit, you might be pleased to learn that there are many naturally low-alcohol wines available that taste every bit as good as their higher percentage counterparts. If you’ve tried non-alcoholic wine in the past and been put off by the synthetic sweet taste, we’d urge you to consider these modern options instead – supermarkets have seriously upped their game to keep up with the cultural shift.
Overall, we found the best tasting wines are those that are naturally lower in alcohol. For example, a hunter semillon from Australia or a German riesling, rather than wines that are superficially de-alcoholised. Remove all alcohol and you’re essentially left with fruit juice, so you can therefore expect the taste to suffer as a result. There are of course exceptions, and we’ve included those below.
Generally speaking, wine has got stronger in recent years, with many full-bodied reds such as zinfandel and shiraz hitting the 15 per cent and above mark. With this in mind, we’ve focused our selection on whites that come in below 10.5%, reds that are under 11.5% – many come in far lower than this though.
So, this Dry January, perhaps rather than trying to abstain totally, how about choosing a lower alcohol alternative instead? We think it’s one new year’s resolution that’s likely to last longer than the end of the month. The team at food and drink website Crummbs switched their regular vino for a lower ABV to see if they could tell the difference.
Marks & Spencer Sumika Sauvignon Blanc, 8.5%: £7.50, Marks & Spencer
Calorie-conscious wine lovers will enjoy the new Sumika range from M&S, which contains less than a third of the calories in a standard bottle of wine. “Sumika” means “light” in Japanese, and this range includes shiraz and rosé options, but it was this sauvignon blanc that caught our attention. Light and refreshing with subtle flavours of elderflower, passion fruit and peach, each 100ml glass of wine contains 50 calories (30 per cent less than your typical South African sauvignon blanc). With none of the sweetness often associated with reduced alcohol options, we genuinely couldn’t tell the difference.
Selbach-Oster Mosel Riesling Kabinett, 9.5%: £10.25, Berry Bros. & Rudd
Working perfectly well with or without food, this is a great example of a German riesling. Light and bright with the balanced sweetness you’d expect from this region, the lower ABV makes for an excellent mid-week tipple, particularly during the summer months. This impressive wine producer dates back to 1661 – grapes are still handpicked and then fermented in the traditional large oak barrels.
Domaine Les Maou, 11.5%: £18, Harvey Nichols
The cool climate of this French vineyard makes it perfect for growing the blend of carignan and auban grapes needed to create this fresh, dry red wine. Perhaps unexpectedly, we found this works well with cold cuts of white meat or hard cheeses. Expect floral notes, juicy red berries and aromatic herbs on the nose. The winemaker works using natural processes, which only enhances these flavours further without the need for any artificial additives.
Alvorado Vinho Verde, 9%: £5, Sainsbury’s
With its slight spritz, this Portuguese white wine will make for excellent summer drinking. This region is well known for producing beautiful zingy whites with crisp citrus and melon notes and this is no exception. Try it with oily fish, and be transported to sunnier climes.
Marks & Spencer Asti Spumante, 7%: £6.75, Marks and Spencer
Asti (also known as moscato) is an excellent alternative to celebration fizz and also happens to boast a naturally lower ABV. Sweet, frothy and extremely fun, try this Italian spumante as an aperitif or with desserts for a lighter end to your evening. The citrus tang balances out the sweetness from the apple, giving your regular prosecco a serious run for its money.
Lindeman’s Bin 1355 Hunter Valley Semillon, 10.5%: £7.49, Waitrose
Located north of Sydney, the Hunter Valley is Australia’s oldest winemaking region and produces this very dry white wine, ideal for social gatherings such as summer weddings and barbeques. Another wine with a naturally lower ABV, expect a fresh, lively acidity coupled with a lemony finish. The 2013 vintage was awarded Silver from the Decanter World Wine Awards as well as Silver from the International Wine Challenge.
Aldi Featherweight Italian Pinot Grigio 5.5%: £2.99, Aldi
Aldi are set to relaunch their popular Featherweight wine collection this January after the low calorie range flew out of the door last summer. Crisp and fresh with notes of white peach, this Italian pinot grigio pairs well with seafood and lightly dressed salads. Containing just 52 calories per 125ml serving, this bargain bottle is ideal if you’re watching your weight.
Buy in stores nationwide from 22 January 2018
Sainsbury's Alcohol Free Sparkling Wine: £2.75, Sainsbury’s
The alcohol has been removed from this sparkling German wine for a tee-total alterative to your regular aperitif. As you’d expect, there is a touch of sweetness, but not unpleasantly so, and it remains dryer than many other non-alcoholic options we tried. Overall, it’s a crisp and refreshing apple flavoured drink. Best served ice-cold.
Torres Natureo Dealcoholised Wine, 0.5%: £5.99, Ocado
Spanish wine brand Torres is a popular choice here in the UK and it’s dipped its toes into the low-alcohol market with this tipple made exclusively from fermented muscat grapes. The alcohol is all but removed, leaving behind just the flavour and aroma of a classic muscat. It’s certainly sweeter then we’d choose ordinarily but can be enjoyed when served ice-cold.
The Verdict: Low-alcohol wines
We struggled to find many truly delicious completely non-alcoholic wines (in most cases, you’re probably better off just drinking something else). However, if you’re looking for a lower alcohol option that doesn’t compromise on taste, we couldn’t fault the sauvignon blanc from the new Sumika range at M&S. Tasting just like the real thing, we’d be happy to make this vino part of our regular repertoire – new year’s resolution or not.