Is “diet wine” the next wave in the adult beverage industry? The most recent issue of Vineyard and Winery Management has a very interesting article by Tim Teichgraeber on the increasing popularity of “low calorie” wines. The way this low-calorie wine is achieved is by artificially lowering the alcohol content, and in some cases, adding sugar or carbonation for taste. The classification of a “Table Wine” in the United States has an alcohol of 7-14%, with many of the wines you find in the grocery stores or in the tasting rooms here in Virginia coming in around 12% – 13% alcohol. In comparison, several of these low-calorie brands are aiming for around 5% alcohol.
Ben Jordan, the winemaker here at Wineworks remains skeptical of the calorie/alcohol trade-off. He points out that the manipulation of a wine necessary to take it to an artificially low alcohol can result in something that tastes…artificial. Not to say that all low alcohol wines lack flavor or taste like something off an assembly line. There are some wonderful German Rieslings that clock in at 9% abv or lower, but they generally carry unfermented sugar into the calorie pool. Most of our favorite grape varieties produce flavors that taste good when sugar levels have reached potential alchohols of 11% and more– sometimes a lot more!
Lower alcohol doesn’t have to mean a compromise of quality, though. There are several stylistic reasons to choose a lower alcohol wine. ”Some of us say that naturally lower alcohol wines tend to have more complexity. A 15% Californian wine, can be one-dimensional with jammy, big fruit. A 12% alcohol wine can have more balanced flavors, more earthy, mineral notes as well as the ripe fruit,” Ben explains.